This I Believe

Jonathan - Fulton, Mississippi
Entered on May 7, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

Something to Believe In

“Tragedy changes everything.” These were my fathers words — words that now echoed in my head so loud that nothing could drown them out, not even my grandmother’s heartbreaking sobs. When my father first told me these words, I never really cared about life, death, experience, or anything else philosophical that he rambled on about. But the death of my grandfather came at me so hard, so furiously, it was like shifting from overdrive to reverse at 100 miles per hour, slamming everything into perspective. I was crying and thinking, thinking and crying, and striving with all my might to avoid doing both. It was during this time that I learned an unforgettable lesson: no matter how insurmountable pain may seem, it must be overcome. Memories are sometimes all that’s left to hold on to, and pain can tarnish even the most remarkable relationship. I believe in letting go in order to hold on.

The news came awkwardly. The police officer who called my grandmother wouldn’t say much, just that my grandfather was hurt badly. In my naïveté, I assumed things were serious, but not that serious. My father didn’t share such a disposition. It took him over 30 minutes to put on his tie. 30 minutes. He had put on his tie in the exact same way almost every day for over 50 years. It wasn’t something he had to think about. I remember watching his shaky hands as he made each erroneous loop. He knew something I didn’t, but he wasn’t about to tell me.

The nurse informed us at about one o’clock that morning. My grandmother’s lamentations were like hammer blows to my heart, and not even my own tears could counter them. I was lost. Nothing mattered. Not friends, not family, not even myself. All I could think about were those words: “Tragedy changes everything.” I was truly starting to believe them.

The funeral was a collage of negative emotions, philosophical and religious jargon, and genuine consolations. The memories cut at my heart and mind; some ignoring both and slicing straight to my wounded soul. I just wanted to somehow vanish and appear in a world where I could not dream, could not envision, could not even think about my grandfather. I wanted to step out of myself and forget that I had ever even known him.

It was my aching grandmother who told me that no matter what happened, everything I ever had with my grandfather I never lost and never would lose, as long as I held on to it. I mean, how could I forget the countless days spent playing baseball or building the old shed? Or the hours he spent helping me complete some stupid, inconvenient project, just so he could spend time with me? That was the last time I ever cried. I realized that I had more to do than waste energy on pain; I had to hold on to my grandfather.

In the end, tragedy almost changed everything. But because I let go of the pain and held on to each precious memory of my grandfather, I still have the love and the joy that we shared. I still have something to believe in.