Today’s post is not based on a news item, but on a personal experience I had over the weekend. I hope you’ll bear with me.
Last week, my dad’s wife’s father got up in the middle of the night, either to go to the bathroom or to get some food or something, and he slipped and hit his head on the tile floor. He made it back to bed, but never woke up again. Comatose for a day, the internal bleeding within his skull starved his brain of oxygen, and by Friday, he was gone. My wife and I took our kids to the viewing, which was a first for the little ones. It was old hat for me. I’ve been to way too many of these things.
My step-grandfather (which feels strange, even to type) was somebody I had only met once, at my father’s wedding, but he was a nice fellow who clearly loved his family, and despite his years, could have lived for many more had he not been laid low by a tragic accident. It was one of those things that underscores the notion that your home is the most dangerous place to be. That’s the problem with life; it’s dangerous.
He had been married for nearly 62 years, which is longer than a lot of people get to live, period. His wife was dignified and noble, considering the circumstances, but it was clear she was hurting deeply. The grim truth was that she is now a serious health risk; people don’t stay married for six decades and then shrug off the loss of their partner. Death by heartbreak is very real, indeed.
But what struck me most about the viewing was when we entered the funeral home. As we walked into the viewing room, some friends of the family were sitting along that back wall, and their infant daughter was crawling around, happy as could be, but blocking the path. As we smiled while her daddy picked her up, it struck me that here we were, to honor the end of one life, but were forced to acknowledge the start of another. There was a poignancy to that moment, and it helped to soften the rest of the viewing for me.
That night, we went home and decided to relax together by watching some television. Lucky us, we caught an episode of Dr. Who, wherein the Doctor and his sidekick – a girl whose father was killed in an auto accident before she ever got to know him – travel through time in a vain attempt to prevent the auto accident from happening. It was a good episode, and it ended the way any story like that would; changing history had negative consequences, and the only way things could be fixed was the character of the dad had to accept his fate and die anyway. You can’t change the tragedies that define our lives, no matter how much we want to.