As I pulled my dress over my head, slipped my shoes on, and foolishly applied my mascara, I was feeling apathetic. The house was silent, though there was nothing to say. My parents, uncle, grandma, and I filed into the car and were on our way. The car ride lasted an eternity, but I was in no rush to reach our destination. When we arrived, I was scared – scared to see, scared to walk through those doors and face reality. How did we end up in this situation? How could this be real? Why was this happening to us? I was too young to be experiencing this. I was stuck in denial. I was surrounded by friends and family, yet I had never felt so alone. No one was there to calm me because they were all grieving in their own ways. I didn’t realize until that night that he would have been the one to comfort me in any other situation.
I remember my grandfather as passionate, he was someone who always looked after those he cared about. He loved to make others happy and help those in need. He was funny and clever, too. A summation of his personality is defined perfectly by a quote from my aunt: “If he found out how much the funeral cost, there would be rain.” We received much more than rain that night, in one of the worst storms I have ever experienced. I felt the booming cracks of thunder in my bones and watched the lightning strikes as they illuminated the sky. This commotion outside reassured me that he was there with us. I didn’t realize how many people he knew, there was at least 300 people at the wake, despite the torrential downpour.
After stepping out of the car, I slugged behind the rest of the group. I was reluctant to enter the building. Once I walked through those doors and the situation became real, everything would change. Wouldn’t it? As I walked in, the air was cold and dry. There was a vibrant red carpet that attempted to distract from the weight of depression that filled the room. As I trudged down the hallway and turned the corner, I froze. In that moment, my heart sunk, and my face turned pale. This was real. Hesitant to approach him, I found myself admiring all of the bright flowers that were sent and put on display. I found the fragrant lilies my sisters and I had bought, signed “Papa’s Angels.” In that moment, I wished they were by my side. The weather conditions and traffic were postponing their arrival.
I wandered around the venue, roaming from the main and side room, which had a touching video of pictures throughout his life. I finally stationed myself on the old couch in the very back of the central room. It was easier on me mentally to stay out of the way. As more people started to pour in, I studied the room trying to distract my mind. I focused on the painting of him. I had never seen it before, but I knew it was him. His plump rosy cheeks at either end of his wide smile, that was the cheerful man we all knew and loved. A similar smile formed across my face for a brief moment. Unfortunately, it was only a moment.
I remember the emotional state I was in compared to my cousin, as I sat with tears streaming down my red, puffy face. Why was I was showing enough emotion for the both of us? It struck me just how different each of our relationships with our grandfather were. I have grown up for most of my life far away from him, where she was a five-minute drive. Nobody felt as guilty as I did. The distance from him was hard, but I never saw to make it work. I didn’t realize until that night just how much he gave me and how little I returned for the 14 years I knew him.
He was always looking out for people and their needs. Everyone knew his life was dedicated to serving others. If I wanted something, he would do anything in his power to give me a solution, then shortly after my request would leave my lips, I had whatever it was I desired. Every time I would visit him at his boat shop, he would give me candy and make me a meal. The stubborn and selfish child in me never appreciated those things like I should have. He always had everyone else on his mind. He was a fighter. I discovered that night that he was a Chief Warrant Officer in the army.
Tucked away on the loveseat, I observed the crowded room and the activity of others. There were few people sitting in the rows of chairs in front of me, and many people waiting to console my mother and her siblings in the receiving line. I overheard many conversations celebrating him, and others discussing the grief and pain. I was unaware of how heartbroken my grandma was under her well-composed public façade. Her pain was revealed to me in a conversation with my cousin, as she recalled how my grandma avoided any contact for days afterwards; or how the first time someone called the house for him, tears burst from her eyes. I didn’t realize until that night the degree to which he touched everyone’s life as I watched people dear to me weep.
If I had realized, I would have made it work. I would have made a point to visit him and spend quality time with him while I was at his house. If I knew then what I know now, I would have made the effort to have a closer relationship. I would have known if he was ready, I would have known more about how he thought, I would have known about his past and even present experiences, I would have known if he was happy. I had never truly hurt before this night.
We are remembered by a photograph, but there is so much more to a person than that. The effort to figure out who they are is not something to leave for the last moment. I should have done more, but that is my own fault. I thought I knew him, however, there was so much I had undiscovered. I didn’t realize until that night how much he meant to me and how deeply I miss him.
About the Author: Lizzie Morrow loves to travel and has visited many countries in Europe. She loves experiencing different cultures and gaining new experiences and has developed an appreciation for travel. She enjoys speeding her time with her friends and listening to music. She actively contributes to her community by volunteering.
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