Challenge Day 06: Something you hope you never have to do
There are plenty of things I hope I never have to do; I never want to go to a Justin Bieber concert, eat mashed anything (accept potatoes), attend a clown convention, watch another movie with Mariah Carey (I think Glitter permanently broke something inside of me), have bats in my hair or be covered in bugs. I hope I never have to swim with sharks, get stuck in a cave (or any tight spot), feel fire against my skin, lose a limb, or vacation ever again in the hell my own mind is so perfectly capable of creating. Yes, there are plenty of things I hope I never have to do, but what I hope most of all to avoid (like I’m clearly avoiding a straightforward answer to this question) is the need to bury one of my children.
Death is the only guaranteed reality in this world. I know this, I’ve accepted it, and yet I have never learned to deal with it very well. In fact, I tend to go out of my way to avoid dealing with it – I haven’t even attended a funeral in the last decade, though people around me haven’t exactly stopped dying.
It’s not my own death that brings me great unease; that I can accept as an unavoidable finish line. My own mortality and the knowledge of its inevitability is what drives me to do the things in life I love without feeling the need to ask for permission, wait for acceptance or seek out forgiveness; life is short – it’s best to pack as much living into it as possible. Yes, my own death I can accept without much in the way of difficulty, but the idea of losing the people I care most about scares the living hell out of me.
When I was fourteen, one of my best friends (we’ll call her ‘T’) committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. I know that sounds very melodramatic-movie-of-the-week, but that’s exactly what happened. ‘T’ road her ten-speed up to a lookout spot with a reputation for having the best view of our hometown, and just jumped. The lookout is still frequented by locals and tourists alike, though now there’s a chain link fence running the entire length of the plateau and disappearing into the trees on either side. My friend was not the first or the last to end her life there, and I guess somewhere along the line, someone decided to make suicide from that point at least a little more difficult to achieve. I don’t know if the fence has been successful or not; I haven’t been back to my hometown in seven years, and I haven’t been up that mountain in about fifteen; but I can’t help wondering if ‘T’ would have rethought her plunge if the fence had been there when we were kids.
Now I don’t know why she did it and I guess I never will. I always thought she lived a charmed life, and I never suspected she was anything but happy. Of the two of us, I doubt there was anyone that might have guessed she’d be the one to take her own life. That’s the thing about pain sometimes though, isn’t it? You can’t always see what’s inside someone else’s heart, and if they’re good at painting a smile on their face, you may never even guess at the fact that they’re suffering in some private hell.
While ‘T’s funeral was not the first I ever attended, she was the first young person I ever seen put in the ground. I remember trying to cope with the idea of my own mortality for the first time. I remember being overwhelmed with the loss of my friend, and struggling with the thought of living in a world without her in it. I remember wishing I believed in heaven so I could comfort myself with the consolation that at least she’d gone on to a better place. I even remember being mad her at some point; of feeling like she’d abandoned me and everyone else, and that there couldn’t possibly have been a good reason for doing so. What I remember most of all though, is aching for her parents. They both so completely fell apart that I fervently wished I could trade places with my friend and give them back their daughter just to end their suffering and see them smiling again. I’d spent a lot of time in their home over the years and they were like the family I always wanted. I tried to visit them often after her death, but I think my being around just made it harder on them. After awhile, I just stopped showing up. I think that’s the first time in my life that I ever realized how completely useless it was to try and comfort someone grieving the loss of anyone, let alone a child.
Two and a half years later I lost another two friends in a car accident. There’d been four of them in the car – one male (we’ll call him ‘I’) and one female (we’ll call her ‘K’) died, while the other male and female lived – and since they’d been drinking, high and in a stolen vehicle at the time of the crash, a lot of people had some very pointed comments to make about the accident. I just remember thinking that stupidity was the nature of our youth, and that no matter what sins they might have committed they certainly didn’t deserve to die for their mistakes.
I got a call at three in the morning from my best friend (we’ll call him ‘R’) who was half brother to ‘I’ and had just recently started dating ‘K’. I remember his voice sounded so strange, and when he said, “‘I’ and ‘k” are dead” actual death was the last place my mind went to. My first irrational thought was that they’d hooked up, and now ‘R’ was reeling from the betrayal. I have moments of utter denseness from time to time; generally when facing something my mind doesn’t want to accept; and that was definitely one of those moments. It took a few minutes for it to really sink in, but by the time I hung up the phone I was sobbing so loud my neighbour in the apartment next to me pounded on the wall to shut me up.
I remember that as I sat there hugging my pillow, I was overwhelmed with guilt nearly as powerful as the grief; I was supposed to have been with them that night and it was only by some lucky little twist of fate that I got hung up somewhere else. It’s interesting how we so often feel guilty for things that we have no control over.
There was a joint wake held in their honour and this woman sang ‘Tears in Heaven’ and I remember feeling like I was having an out of body experience – like I was watching myself there, but I couldn’t quite connect my mind with my body. About halfway through the song, ‘R’ and ‘I’s dad fell down on his knees and made this sound so inhuman, so unlike anything I’d ever heard before that I can still hear it now reverberating in my brain. I remember thinking again that I would give anything to give him back his son… I remember thinking that life, quite frankly, sucked.
A couple of years later I attended the funeral of a younger cousin (we’ll call him ‘S’); he’d been hit by a driver that hadn’t bothered to observe the stoplight as ‘S’ had set out to cross the road. I learned later that he’d just left the mall, having bought a gift for his first girlfriend – I don’t know why this bothered me so much as it did, but for some reason, whenever I think about ‘S’, it’s the first thing that pops into my head. His mom (my aunt) had to be hospitalized for over week because she suffered such a severe breakdown. At the funeral she fell down in the middle of the church crying and screaming and I know there was some sort of confrontation wherein she accused her husband of lying to her; that her son wasn’t dead; and then some relatives ushered her out, and I remember again thinking that no parent should ever have to face the loss of a child.
Though my own mother wasn’t always entirely maternal – though sometimes she wasn’t even a very decent person – and though my father suffers from a chronic case of the Peter Pan syndrome and rarely contributed anything of value to my young life, one of the things that kept me marching forward even when all I wanted to do was lay down and die, was the fact that I couldn’t put anyone through the horrors of losing a child. I couldn’t be responsible for inflicting even a little bit of that kind of pain on anyone.
Now, I have done an incredibly good job at avoiding this question, and I thank you for baring with me while I rambled on (and I apologize if you feel cheated) but the truth is I don’t want to answer this question properly because I don’t even want to imagine this one thing that most terrifies me. Over the years I have lost a brother to suicide, two friends to murder, a sister-in-law to a horrible house fire, and at least half a dozen other friends and family members to the simple fragile nature of human life. Though each of these loses has left its own unique shadow on my heart, I would rather spend the rest of the day recounting every detail of those deaths than forcing myself to spend a full five minutes actually investigating the depth of the fear I feel when I think about losing one of my children.
In a perfect world, no parent would ever outlive their child. I know this is not a perfect world, but I hope to hell that I never have to face a reality without either of my girls.
This entry was posted on March 6, 2012 by ~Robin~. It was filed under 30 Day Blog Challenge and was tagged with 30 day challenge, death, difficulty, dying, fear, Glitter, Grief Loss and Bereavement, Justin Bieber, loss, Mariah Carey, Mental Health, murder, Online Writing, suicide, terror, Thought, Writing.