As I think back in time my earliest recollection of death was that of my grandfather. Children have a strange understanding of life and death that often leaves them with a bewildered acceptance.
I was young (about eight) and what I remember is that there were a lot of people around and nothing seemed normal. It was scary and I remember hiding in the dining room.
Much later, while I was in my teenage years, my Uncle Jimmy died in a car accident. I remember the police coming to the door to tell my mother and again it felt scary and somehow I knew instinctively that life was forever changed for my mother, because of the love she had for her brother.
I remember going to the funeral and everyone coming to pay their respects. It was my first time at a funeral and seeing a dead body. I never forgot the stillness, not at all like sleep, and I remember thinking that it wasn’t the laughing Uncle Jimmy that I knew.
Some people remember every detail of a funeral – what they wore, how their hair was combed etc. but I never get close enough or stay long enough to take in details. Over the years I have been too many funerals of family and friends – cancer, accidents and a few suicides. But I always kept my distance and dutifully paid my respects to their loved ones.
But then my husband died and it wasn’t possible to keep my distance. In fact he died suddenly at the kitchen table while I was in the next room. A terminal illness is also painful not only for the ill person but also for the caregiver who must watch the gradual wasting away, helpless to do anything but watch and try to help.
It’s not like these earlier deaths will provide any preparation for the pain that comes from the death of a loved one. Grief doesn’t work like that, nothing dilutes the pain.
When you are young you hear people say “Life is never the same again” but then it happens to you and its true – Life is never the same again, it’s changing. One could pretend otherwise but the truth slowly works its way through the fog of grief until this major fact sinks in and is absorbed – “Life is never the same again”.