Death and Tragedy

January 2, 2011
The evening of October 12, 2002; the night my grandfather died, began as any other autumn night. The moon was full and bright, and the stars shone like sunlight reflecting off a sliver of glass, but the beautiful scenery was obscured by the shadowy forms, of the darkening clouds, a premonition of the storm to come. My family was inside, we had just finished dinner. The room was filled with the smell of cloves, candied ham, freshly baked rolls, and the homemade mashed potatoes with gravy. The lingering aromas making my mouth quiver at the thought of leftovers, which were to be consumed the following day.
I had snuggled down into my mother's leather chair, the springs creaking and groaning loudly because they had not been oiled, and I had opened my grandfather's manuscript. He had written it while he was still an English professor at Old Miss University in Oxford, Mississippi, My grandfather, at the time about 50, was bald with a gray mustache and beard. He was soft-spoken, and loved the English language and music more than anything. He taught his students, as well as I, to write from the heart. The novel he wrote was called Pinhooker, and portrayed the lives and hardships experienced by migrant workers. The paper was old to the touch, but young withing the mind. The paper was rough on my hands, but also very delicate. I was on the third paragraph, seventh line, when the phone rang. My parents' voices, previously merry, had become hushed and cold, with hints of hesitation and anger. A dark silence fell over our household; the air had become heavy with dread, resentment, and sorrow.
As I grew increasingly uncomfortable in my changed environment everything around me seemed to shift and move. The air was heavy, tension lead to anger, and my screaming at my brother, over whose turn it was to wash and dry dishes, fueled the already dreary and woeful mood of the Sherwood house.
Even now, eight years later, I still do not understand the reason I began seeing both sides of every issue, my perspective became less biased in that way. But then, as an eight year old girl, I was struck by the change in the mood in my house, arguments which had seemed like major issues of contention all melted away with this change in my point of view. I heard Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture in the background. The finale of which, loud and booming on CD as it was when originally written by the Russian composer, rang clear in my soul. Each note striking a different chord within my heart, until it reached a point where the beating of my heart struck a perfect harmony to the finale. It was at this point, my mind and soul lost to the music. I fell into the dark pools of unconsciousness, but the music played on within my mind. Every note, every chord, told me a piece of the horror story that was about to unfold. Sadly though, in my semi-conscious state, I did not realize the significance of these notes.
I regained consciousness due to the midnight chill. The storm was growing fiercer as I fought for control of my emotions. The storm fought back, and began to unleash a torrent of howling wind and blinding rain. Booming thunder and flashing lightning filled the sky. At the time, I did not believe in death; after all, most of my family was still alive, but I knew that something horrible was on the horizon. The clock read 8:18 PM. The tolling of the metal and bamboo wind chimes in tune and providing a harmony to the storm, which had unleashed its mighty, thunderous, and flashy fury unto the world. The winds were a howling wolf in the night sky. Only the candles and their smells, such as the apple cinnamon one in the kitchen, kept me from collapsing, yet again, into unconsciousness. My parents were still speaking, but their voices were in hushed tones, underlain with grief. They called me to them, and spoke to me as if i was an adult, expecting me to cope well with this loss, and to emerge stronger.
I remember that as they told me the circumstances behind my grandfather's death. The rain had lessened; and the cat, Smudge, had jumped into my lap, purring comfortingly as I scratched her ears and neck. I remember that I was struck dumb by this news of my grandfather's death by the doctor's hand. We all believed it to be a murder. But we had no proof. Nothing should have gone wrong. But idle hands are the Devil's workshop. All we had were our suspicions, and we'll never know. That, at the very least, has lasted through time. I remember being so struck that I could not, at the moment, shed a tear. "My parents are being brave, so I must as well" is how I justified my actions that night. I tried being brave and I tried to listen to the entire story. Alas, my strength and self-control collapsed, and I ran to my room crying, screaming, bawling, until my energy was spent. I remember grabbing Midnight, my large stuffed panther, the fur of her soft and comforting. I could not stop crying. Even as I thought my salty tears ran dry, more kept flowing. Finally I collapsed, tears still streaming down my face.
The next morning was possibly the most traumatic event of my life. My family trip to the funeral home is a black hole in my memory. I remember the funeral home director discussing the cremation procedures and offering advice in terms to what my grandfather left behind in his will.
I remember holding my grandfather's hand as he lay in his coffin. His face ashen and cold; washed in the tide of death. His black, funeral tuxedo beautiful, neat, yet depressing. I knew, just by holding his hand, the hand of my poor grandfather that I would never move on. Even now his death is always a lingering hardship, a black figure whose hand always grasps my own.
Another body was being cremated, the smells of skin, bone, flesh and fire. I will never forget such a putrid, noxious mix. It churned my stomach. I was almost ill, but I had refused to leave my grandfather's cold body.
What seemed like an eternity passed by, then I was ushered out, my grandfather's cremation was about to begin. I cried and cried for him. I was unaware of all the discussion between the director and my father and uncles. My flurry of emotions was controlling me. I was only aware of my depression, but sadly, my tears could not bring about his revival.
When the ashes were delivered to our home on October 21, 2002, the director himself brought them. I stole a small amount, which for the next three years I wore in a small vial around my neck. It may seem grotesque, but it was all I could do. My house was quiet, nobody spoke, and no longer did smells and aromas fill the rooms. There was no longer a light-hearted, gay atmosphere. The joy was gone. Our family split.
Even though we still lived together (and still do), we each went our seperate ways. I became a recluse, my brother started becoming more and more violent and easily angered, my father became absorbed with his computers, and my mother did all of these things. "A house divided cannot stand"-Abraham Lincoln. Never did this hold truer than at this time. Emotionally split over the cold, crushing reality. My grandfather, Charles Sherwood, was dead. He died at the age of 70. He died as he was getting a pacemaker put in. He died from wanting to live longer for the sake of his family. He died for us, his grandchildren. He died from his love of his family.

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