There’s an interesting thing about death. It surrounds us, stalks us and stands by in the shadows just waiting. Patiently and silently waiting to make itself visible. Standing by, forever on call and always at the ready to punch the clock…and go to work.
But in the shadow of death, we are surrounded by life.
We are surrounded by friends, family and memories. Some of them good, some of them sad and some…well…some are just lost in shades of grey. Nevertheless, they make us who we are. They remind us of an inner strength. Sometimes…of a forgotten innocence. All in all, we learn from these experiences and deep down, whether we realize it or not, we hope that it’s enough to keep us going…enough to keep the reaper at bay until we’ve fulfilled something.
Or…at least until we’ve had enough fun in the attempt.
My grandfather passed away…one month ago yesterday. A long life to be sure. The Patriarch of a large family. A family of good men and women, strong, intelligent men and women. And I don’t just say that because I happen to be one of them.
No…I say that because as sad as it sounds, it was his death that finally made me see, or at least, helped me acknowledge, the strength and intelligence within us. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve always known it. I suppose though I’d never truly FELT it before. Families rally around one another when confronted with death. They provide support, love, laughter…all of the things necessary to remind you that you’re not alone. And in those moments you learn their depth. You learn who they are, you learn who they are not and you realize things that were always present but maybe…just maybe…you did not see.
Or you chose to ignore.
You see for me, for the last decade or so, I’ve been a bit distant from my family. It’s been gradual, but steady…and it has been completely my fault. I’ve felt misunderstood, forgotten, ignored…left dangling in the wind like sheets drying on the line. At the end of the day though, it was up to me to NOT feel that way. It was up to me to engage more, become and stay more involved and integrated. It was up to me to speak up, voice my thoughts and be heard.
Or at least feel that way.
But instead I wallowed, grew resentful and distanced myself. Until I was needed. Until the shadow was cast over us all. Family comes together to stand strong against the shadow. The bond is strengthened, along with the loyalty and love. It stands strong against the shadow and illuminates everything. Even those things we previously did not see…or chose to not see.
That light had shown brightly for me the night before my grandfather passed. I sat in the house he’d shared with my grandmother since what seemed like the dawn of time. The same house in which they’d raised their family. The same house I spent many summers with my cousins as a child. I sat with my grandmother, my aunt and my father and watched…listened…and smiled. Things became a little more clear. While there I think I learned and understood more in 30 minutes than I had in 30 years. In those moments, all of the disconnect I’d felt in the past…the segregation…the feelings of abandonment…all of that washed away and it became apparent just what I was.
I am that which came before me. And I am that which follows me.
And after those moments of clarity…I found myself watching The Voice with my father.