Death. It really is the shittest part of life. The be all and end all. The inevitable.
It happens around us every day, yet it is so far from our thoughts. How often does a person sit down and really think about the fact that one day, every single person they love will be gone? Depressing I know, but as I’m now suddenly at a stage where I’m being forced to accept loss, I’m finding myself drowning in a sea of negativity. My lifejacket has been punctured by the sharp woes of life.
I know that when a person dies, you’re supposed to soak in a reminiscent bath of love and memories. But so it goes – the process of grief and my deep dark ocean is yet to calm.
Last week, I got a call from my cousin. I’d been up partying all night and had just returned home to sleep while the sun awoke. My phone rang.
“Hey Renee, Grandpa’s not doing so well,” she said quietly. “I’m here at the hospital with him if you’d like to speak to him.”
My mind became clouded with fear and my eyes blurred by tears. With zero hours of sleep, I was in no state to be dealing with such a bomb.
It’s hard for me to grasp the concept of death before it even happens. I’m really not sure how to feel. People say it’s better to know it’s coming so that you’re prepared, but now we are just a family of sitting ducks, floating on a shallow creek of hope.
I guess there’s no good way to hear that someone you love is close to dying. It’s all pretty shit.
When I was seven, I lost my grandmother, and as painfully tragic as that was, I wasn’t old enough to justify my grief or even really understand what it was. I didn’t even know my nan was sick: dying, in fact. It wasn’t until my parents gathered myself and my brothers into our lounge room after school one day to tell us the bad news that I realised.
“It’s about Vera,” said my mum, tears in her eyes. My dad unable to speak.
“She’s dead,” I replied, as if it were a joke.
My mum just folded over, her head in her lap, and began to sob. I remember it as if it were a movie I’d just watched. I remember feeling confused. I remember feeling sad. I remember the solitary tear falling from my Dad’s eye at her funeral. I’d never seen him cry before.
I returned to school and, ironically, had to write a story about the worst day of my life. Pretty fucked-up thing to set on a bunch of seven-year-olds, now that I think about it, but at the time, it seemed fitting. With my wounds still fresh, I began to scribble down my feelings. The day Vera died I wrote.
I’m not sure why, but I remember feeling really proud of what I’d written. I went home to show my dad in the hopes he would feel proud too.
“I really don’t want to hear about this,” he said, a shake in his voice.
That was the first time I’d ever felt truly sad.
I guess it’s a little different now. That was 17 years ago. Vera was too young, too in love. She was the light of my Grandpa’s life, the skip in his step. His world went dark and his step got slow the day she left him.
I find a small amount of comfort knowing that he will finally be with her again. This amazing man who has given me so much love can now float through the skies with his angel.
The rest of the time, I feel sad. Selfishly, arrogantly sad.
The other day, my cat brought a bird into the house. A little baby butcherbird, completely engulfed by my pet’s mouth. We managed to release it from the cat’s deathly grasp, and raced it to the vet. It died a peaceful death, unaware of its injuries. I felt so stunted by the thought that something so cute could do something so awful. How can something as beautiful as life end in something as ugly as death?
I’m not naive; I know all things must come to an end. Even after birth, we are still just foetuses of life, curled up in the stomach of the Earth, awaiting our release.
As cheaply tattooed as it sounds, it really is about how we spend our time between birth and death that defines our ending, our release.
My Grandpa has lived an incredible life. He showered in love and adventure. And just like coming to the end of a long trip, he began to feel tired and in need of rest. He’s missed his wife, and now it’s time to go home.
I’m heading down to Sydney in a couple of day to attempt a soppy farewell.
“Bye for now,” he’ll say, as he always does.
“Bye for now,” I’ll reply.
Words by Renee Holt
Feature image: Boots With Laces by Vincent van Gogh