Mystery of Death
Death (deTH)- 1 : flushing your goldfish down the toilet 2 : holding a person’s hand as they take their last breath 3 : when the person you love doesn’t come home. Death is spontaneous. Death is random. Death is mysterious.
* * *
My grandfather laid in the bed, motionless. Hooked up to about a thousand different tubes. The rhythmic beeping of the monitors he was hooked up to gave me hope. Each breath he took, was forced by a machine, physically filling his lung with oxygen and then letting it out for him. Though it was my grandfather laying in that bed, it was not him. He was not the vibrant, witty many from my memories. He was not the strong man, who made it to everyone of my volleyball games. He was lifeless.
The “V” shaped lines on the screen, finally turned to one straight line. The rhythmic beeping, turned into a singular beep. The machine stopped pushing oxygen throughout his body. It was hard to believe that just two days before he was at my brother’s football game, cheering him on from the sidelines.
My grandfather was rarely seen without a cigarette dangling from his lips. Therefore, his raspy cough did not seem worrisome at all.
“You really should quit that, Dad” my father said, as he lit a cigarette to his own lips.
My grandfather just rolled his eyes and continue to holler to my brother about his form. Not even five minuets later, he started coughing. He coughed so hard that his face turned tomato red. The veins in his forehead protruded through his skin. He bent over, gasping for air. He removed his hands from his mouth, which he had been covering. His hands were covered in bright red blood.
My father rushed him to the hospital, the whole time my grandfather insisted that he was just fine. Once in the hospital, he was whisked away from us. They left us in a waiting room. Pacing anxiously. Eating cheap snacks from the vending machine in the corner as an attempt to keep ourselves occupied. After what seemed like hours, a person in scrubs appeared in the door way.
“The Crowder family?” she asked.
My father stood up, clutching his Phillies cap to his chest.
“Your father has Stage 4 Lung cancer. It is progressing very rapidly,” my father sunk to into the plastic chair next to him, “I’m going to be blunt, he does not have very much time left. In the meantime, we are going to keep him comfortable. I can take you to see him if you would like.”
He nodded. Tears welling up in his eyes. The physician placed her hand on his shoulder, “I am so sorry for your loss, Mr. Crowder.”
And just like that, he was dead.
* * *
Rows of colorful nets lined the field, blue, orange, yellow and pink. Volleyballs were seen flying in the air in every direction. The sky was clear, despite pouring the day before. The wind was icy, despite being the first week of summer. The courts, that were once grass were now littered with mounds of mud. I saw my best friend and partner, Liz across the park. She had a volleyball in hand. And a smile on her face. I started towards her. With each step I sunk deeper and deeper into the mud, like quicksand. These conditions were far from optimal to play volleyball in. But it didn’t matter because I was playing the sport I loved.
In the crowd of avid volleyball players, I saw my high school coach. I smiled to myself. I’ve had him for five seasons. He was the type of coach that was so passionate about the game that he wouldn’t sleep before games. If you needed anything, he would be there. He had his girls back, like no one else would. He was sporting his usual Philadelphia Eagles gear from head to toe. He turned around and spotted me.
“Slappy!” he said, “Who are you playing with?”
“Liz,” I said, “I thought you weren’t coming today? Doesn’t your grandson have a game?” If Ern wasn’t in the gym coaching he was seen with one of his various grandchildren. He made it to every single one of their events, whether it be a cheerleading completion, art show or Tee ball game.
“I’m about to head there now,” he said “tell Liz I said hi. Don’t suck, Slappy.”
I smiled at the nickname he has given me. For my unfortunate tendency to slap at the ball while hitting it over the net.
“Of course, I’ll see you later Ern.”
That was the last time I spoke to him. While I was playing the sport that we were both so passionate about, he to, died.
Who chooses when we die? How is it that a person can be joking with you and talking with you one moment, but dead the next? How do we know that the person who died lived their life to their fullest potential? Is there a reason that mother loses her child?
My mother once told me that death, is only the beginning.
* * *
Funeral (fu.ner.al) 1 : The weird celebration that happens after someone dies 2 : When people you’ve never seen before meet to talk about how much they will miss the dead 3 : When it really hits you that they are gone
* * *
Ernie’s face was everywhere. Every four feet, there was another picture of him on a canvas. In almost picture, he was wearing Eagles green. His hazel eyes were framed by his circle, metal framed glasses. His salt and pepper hair, buzzed. His face rugged with grey facial hair. His eye squinted and his mouth curved in a smile. There were pictures of him with his grandchildren, at baseball games, dance recitals, award ceremonies and holding them when they were first born. There were pictures of him on his wedding day. His hair more pepper than salt, his Eagles shirt traded for a black tux. There were pictures of him coaching. Slouched in a chair, his clipboard in hand, ready to be thrown at any given second.
As I walked deeper into the funeral home, I realized that there were two types of people at a funeral. Those who cried and those who didn’t. Those who cried, I found, were those who really didn’t know him. The people who came to the funeral because they worked in the cubical next to his. Those are the people who wish that they would have done more.
The ones who didn’t were the ones closest to him. His family. His wife. His daughters. His mother. They acted as the host and hostesses of the party. The ones you pay your respects to. The ones who weren’t supposed to fall apart.
Why is it, that when someone dies people feel the need to act like they were close to the person who died, when in reality, they wouldn’t have given that person the time of day? Is it that we feel responsible in some way for their death? Do we wish that we would have made a bigger impact on their life? Or is it simply for our own peace of mind. For our own closure.
Why is it, that when a person dies, a celebration is called for? Is the end of someone’s life to be celebrated? If that is the case, then why do we feel the loss of someone we love so strongly? Why, when someone dies, does it feel like you are dying right along with them? Is that something to be celebrated?
My mother once told me that death is only the beginning. The beginning of a new chapter. That, is something worth celebrating.