A Death that Changed Me

January 11, 2010
By , Houston, TX
Have you ever experienced the death of a loved one? If you haven’t, you are very lucky. Death is a powerful event. I get chills just mentioning the word “death”, but it can also help you learn. It can help you understand that even though the person is gone, other family members are left behind to live their lives. Death is so powerful that it can change a person’s life and bring a family closer together. Death touched my life and I was forever changed.

When I was eight years old, I was enjoying life and having fun every minute. I was old enough to know that my great- grandfather, Pawpaw Homer, was very old and hadn’t been feeling very well in recent months. My mom told me, “ Pawpaw is getting old and he is just very tired.” Being an eight year old, I didn’t think much of her explanations. However, I still remember the day we received the call saying he was very sick with cancer and in the hospital. “Hello, oh my goodness, we are on our way”, my mom said as she hung up the phone. “Your Pawpaw has been put into the hospital and we must get there right away.” I felt very confused. I didn’t know what to think. I never had a relative in the hospital, much less one with cancer. I was scared and worried. I realized that my mom was not correct when she said Pawpaw was just “getting old”. “ I am worried Pawpaw is going to die.”

Each time I visited the hospital, he seemed sad, and desperate to let go and die I remembered him saying, “I just want to go home to Jesus.” “I am so tired and weak.” I thought he looked like a different person. I thought to myself, is that seriously my Pawpaw or am I in the wrong room. “Pawpaw looks different to me. He is so thin and white. It makes me sad to see him this way. ”He had always been so loving, caring, and happy, but now he seemed to vanish into his hospital bed. He seemed like the life had been punched out of him and as if the shell of his body remained. The room was cold as if the heat had been shut off. “Its cold in here mom. Why is it so cold? Pawpaw needs a blanket to keep him warm.” The room smelled like the hospital food along with medicine and rubbing alcohol. The only way he was staying alive was by machines. I never understood what exactly made him sick because the word they used was “cancer”. “What is cancer?” I thought to myself. “Is it like the flu or a stomach ache or even worse?” I knew being in the state he was, cancer must be an awful and massive disease.

Weeks passed and he didn’t seem any better than when his illness began. I always thought to myself why my family? Why my grandpa? Why did this have to happen to my loving, fun Pawpaw? I planned to leave for summer camp in early July, but before I left I whispered into his ear, “ Please hold on Pawpaw until I get back. I don’t want you to die while I am gone. I don’t know if I should leave or stay. I will be back Pawpaw to see you.” As I said this, I thought to myself, I don’t think he will make it. He is too sick. My doubts came true because while I as gone, he passed away. On July 7th, while I was at camp, Pawpaw Homer went to be with Jesus. When I was picked up, I had so many things to tell my mom and dad about the events at camp. “ I had a great time at camp and I met new friends. How is Pawpaw doing? Can we go and see him when we get home,” I found myself saying to my parents as they greeted me. However, when I saw them, they seemed very gloomy and sad. I had a horrible feeling in my stomach and I knew the news wasn’t good. I thought to myself I don’t think Pawpaw held on while I was gone. When we walked out to the car, my mom and sister quickly hoped into the car. Instead, my dad picked me up and took me on a walk. “Where are we going dad? What’s wrong?” Now I knew in my heart, the news of Pawpaw was going to be no good. We walked about five feet away from our car. He reminded me how my Pawpaw had been sick for a while and we knew he was probably going to die. He said to me, “ Brooke, Pawpaw went to live with Jesus this week”. My heart sank so low it felt as if it were in my stomach. I didn’t know whether to be in shock or just break down and cry forever. Dead, dead, dead, the word repeated in my mind over and over again. Questions began to pop into my head. When is the funeral? What will happen to my great- grandmother? I laid my head in my dad’s chest and began to cry. I went to the car and pinched myself to see if I was actually awake. This awful news was for real. At the funeral I walked up to the casket and put my hand on top and cried. “Why did you have to die? I wanted to see you one last time to say good-bye”. When they fired the guns at his burial it made me think of his poor, cold body in the ground. It made me think back to all the memories we had together and nicknames he called me. It made me think of bread and butter, which was his favorite food.

Now, my great- grandmother was so lonely, she couldn’t function in everyday life. Her sadness was felt throughout our entire family. Her house needed a tremendous amount of work and everyone was working to help her. She would say things like, “I can’t go on and live all alone. I want my husband of sixty- two years back.” “It’ll be fine”, we all found ourselves reminding her. “He is with Jesus now, safe and free of pain and suffering.” I felt so bad for my great-grandmother, I would sometimes cry just for her. After a couple of weeks, it became clear that my great- grandmother couldn’t take care of her house or herself. My grandma and grandpa decided to sell their house and move my great-grandmother live with them. They would put their money together to buy one home. We began clearing out both houses and the hardest was my great -grandmother’s home. We all cried clearing out of my Pawpaw’s things. “Oh my, here is Pawpaw’s uniform from the service. That brings back so many memories,” my great-grandmother said. It was so hard to pick up things that belonged to him. It felt like we were shutting him out of our lives forever. “ What are we going to do with all of his things, Mom!?” “ We will give some of away and some of them and keep some of them to remember him by.” However, during the whole process of moving, I saw a dramatic change in my family. Even though we all had busy schedules, we came to help clear out the house. “How can we help” and “What can we do to make it easier on you Mawmaw (my great- grandmother)” were some of the questions asked when my family came to help. It was as if we had become a closer family. My heart celebrated while it grieved. I thought to myself this is so great to see my family come together. “ Bring more boxes to help tomorrow and then we should finish up later this week,” my uncles said. The realization that death, although a tragic event, can bring a family closer than ever before. We were so tired from the grieve we felt, but had to push forward to help my great- grandmother move into a new home with my grandparents. We were united as one big family striving to make a life easier for my great-grandmother.

The death of a family member is a horrible experience, but it can bring a family closer together. The anguish you feel is overwhelming, but you go through a process that brings you together. I couldn’t think of myself during this time in my life. I had to put my own sad feelings aside and help my family. We pray for Pawpaw at our family gatherings and remember the good times we had together. “Lord, bless Pawpaw who is now with you. We miss you Pawpaw and will always remember you. We look forward to one day see you again. Amen”. We rejoice that he is in Heaven free of pain and free to feel joyful. Knowing my great grandmother feels safe in her new home, my family rejoices for her. I am proud of my family for being strong and working together in a difficult situation. So even though something tragic may happen in your life, it can have positive effects on a family.

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