Walking down the hall of my parents tiny house something seemed somewhat odd and out of place. My grandfather had just come to live with us and to this day I’m still not sure exactly why. I was not much older than four or five. As I ventured into the living room, a curios aroma sort of crept up on me. I could tell from the back of the recliner that Grampa was probably sleeping pretty hard, so naturally I thought it would be incredibly funny if I could just tickle his nose a little.
Standing in front of Grampa, I was a little confused. He was asleep alright. So heavily sleeping, in fact, that he didn’t realize that what looked like a thicker version of his morning coffee was coming up all over the front of his shirt. The thing that amazes me most as I look back at this nightmare is that I wasn’t afraid. I went to the back of the house where my mom was fixing lunch and told her, “Grampa is puking in his sleep.” It wasn’t until I saw her eyes widen with a certain panic that I realized the situation was a quite a bit more serious.
In the moments that followed, the scene that lay around me seemed exactly that: everything flowed as if we were all trapped inside some Hollywood film that abruptly reaches its highest peak of intensity. I was in a daze. I remember getting a towel for my mom, she asked me to, and I remember watching huge men in huge yellow jumpsuits carry my Grampa away for the last time. Lights lit the whole room, and I retreated to my bedroom.
For a very long part of my life, I never communicated that memory to anyone, much less what that memory meant to me. I trapped it in the very back of my mind where the danger of remembering what had happened was almost non-existent. Since then, I’ve harbored irrational fears of losing people closest to me. I would crawl into my parents bed to make sure they were still okay at night, or I would sneak a peak at my brother across the room to make sure he was still breathing.
It wasn’t until one of my closest friends lost someone close to them that I remembered and was able to talk about it. Talking about it made it better. I was finally able to somewhat purge myself of the thoughts and the fears of death that had plagued my nightmares for so long. What I learned from my Grampa and what I believe because of him is that life and death are like air. Both constantly surround everyone and there’s nothing anyone can really do about it. I realize that the most important thing I can do with my life is to make sure that the people I care most about know and always know how I feel about them.
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