Day 10 of the #AKwritingChallenge is a sad topic. It’s also one every person goes through. It’s about my first experience with death.
We were raised in farm country. Affluent farm country. Everyone had pets and animals. Our family always had at least one dog and a cat. I can’t think of a single time in my childhood that there hasn’t been at least one pet roaming around somewhere.
Blackie was the first cat I remember. An all black cat, he was battle scarred and wasn’t much of a cuddler but he could mouse like there was no tomorrow. My father called him Scarhead. I’d like to believe that was a play on the movie Scarface but the likely truth is he just went literal. Blackie’s companions were Sid and Charlie, two beagles that were my first experience with dogs.
They were lovers, howlers when there was a rabbit around, and runners. God, they liked to escape. They both passed, of course. I can’t remember how Charlie went, but I believe Sid had cancer. Sid’s passing destroyed us as children. Later in life my sister had a beagle and she named her Sid. They ended up calling her Poky because what animal actually keeps the name they’re given?
As I’m typing this, I vaguely remember a larger dog named Missy? I believe she was Sid’s mom… Charlie was the dad. Yeah, that’s right. Anywho.
Anyone who has or has had pets knows that bad things happen. As a parent, maybe that’s for the better? Is it easier to explain where Sid the dog went rather than Gramma Mary? Like a gateway experience with death, I suppose.
We had a lot of pets pass away in unexpected manners. I shouldn’t but I will mention the poor kitty who fell asleep on the open garage door so when Mom hit the clicker and the door closed, it basically cut the kitty in half.
That one was traumatizing as hell.
When one of the set of twin kitties we had went across the street and my friend picked him up to bring him back and when he leapt out of her arms, he got hit by a car. I think that messed her up way more than us.
We had already learned that pretty much nothing is forever, so we handled that quite well.
That kitty’s twin, by the way, lived a long and healthy life eventually passing away in her sleep.
When my great-grandmother died, I was quite young. She was 105, which gives us all hope on Mom’s side. I don’t remember the funeral so I must have been younger than I realize. My great-gramma taught me how to fold sailor hats out of newspapers. I wish I remembered how now.
I remember thinking it odd there was a bedroom at Gramma’s house that we didn’t go into anymore. That was “Great Gramma’s” room, and it’s called that to this day.
My grandmother took care of her mother in that room for as long as she could. My grandfather passed away in that same room, when the cancer finally won many years later.
Do we hold it against the room? No, but it’s sad and I am teary-eyed simply thinking of it.
I haven’t gone to many funerals in my life. I know they’re for the living, to grieve and receive closure, and I get that, I do. My closure is generally the good-bye I already said to the deceased, assuming I had that opportunity, and if not, my memories are strong. So funerals are weird for me.
I know there’s no soul left in the body laying before us. It’s flesh and bone that is no longer animated, will never be animated, so touching it seems odd to me. When my gramma Mary passed away, I touched her hand in the casket because I felt like I should after seeing other people doing it.
There was nothing there. No connection. No smell of cinnamon from when she used to make me toast and we’d watch wrestling. Nada.
I often wonder if I am an outlier in this, that funerals don’t grab me by the feels. I’m also a private person who doesn’t generally share the bad feels with the world so my crying is generally done before or after the rituals. What about you? How do you feel about funerals and wakes?
Okay, so maybe this wasn’t about my first experience with death, more about my experience in general, but I think that works.