I had my first panic attack when I was seven years old.
I didn’t then, and still don’t, want to be around myself when I cry. It’s repugnant to me and I can’t help it. Specifically my own crying, not anyone else’s. My heart beats too big. I don’t break quietly, no; I howl in such a desolate way that no one can bear to listen to for long. Maybe those who love me feel differently, but frankly, when I cry I just want me to shut up.
My mother, being the saint that she is, comforted me patiently while I hysterically wailed in her ear (draaaama!). Blinking lashes heavy with tears that stung, I told her that I was upset at the order in which she, my father, myself, and my sister were born. My childhood reasoning was that because I was born the last, I would die last, and that just could not stand. I did not want to be alive to watch my family and friends die.
I carried a family photo in my book bag at school, at all times because I had terrible separation anxiety and panic attacks doing things without my family. On the way to school one morning, I realized that my picture wasn’t in the front pocket of my book bag where I established that it should go. I refused to get out of my mom’s car in the drop off line at school without it. My mother, late for work and desperate, gave me her keychain. It had a giant chocolate chip cookie dangling from it. I got out of the car, kept the keychain, and never forgot it or that picture again.
What seven year old thinks like that?
Aside from the deaths of my pop pop who I wish I remembered better, and a friend who was struck by a car skateboarding, my childhood and young adulthood were relatively death-free. But as birthdays come and go, 31 now; so do the number of suicides, diseases, car accidents, and surprise overdoses; not so distant now. Death’s literally or primary meaning does absolutely nothing to describe the ideas and feelings that the word invokes; death is simply that – a word.
But I’ve learned death is a complete mutilation of the heart. Just the way I’d thought it would be when I was seven.
This was supposed to be the future.
Where is my jetpack,
where is my robotic companion,
where is my hydrogen fueled automobile,
where is my nuclear powered levitating house,
where is my cure for this disease
I never got over the death of my best friend, a beagle I named Minnie; I never will. I still cry whenever I think about her. She developed multiple tumors in her jaw, and had to have a large portion of it removed. It was hard to see her like that, but she lived (somehow happily) for a few more years… until the cancer came back. I will miss her terribly for the rest of my life.
Prostate cancer killed my grandfather. He couldn’t remember who I was the last time I spoke to him, but told me that I was pretty. He died in front of me.
My friend’s body was found beginning of November and it broke my heart. The world feels darker now. He and his wife had disappeared the year before, less than 3 months after the birth of their son. Both murdered on Christmas by a serial killer, for no reason at all. I’ll never be the same.
Al was given the nickname “the bastard”, but he wasn’t. He was born with heart complications and died day before last because of them; an unfair fate. He knew he was going to die young. I know this because he told me so one night, showed me the scars on his chest from all the surgeries that he had endured. I argued with him about it anyway. He never asked for attention in life, and didn’t seek any when he knew that he was dying either. He simply moved to North Carolina and passed away.
I’m losing people now that death is not worthy to touch. Of the highest quality, order, and kind, surpassing all others; supreme.
People say these bullshit things. They say that everything happens for a reason, always in response to you asking what that reason is. Receiving line after receiving line, I hear that I should cherish the memories that I have. I’ve always brushed that off as a worthless, though well intended, piece of advice. But the more I think about it, the less it seems like bullshit. Isn’t it such bullshit when the most truest and most poignant statements in life end up being phrases like these? The ones that we hear over and over again, dismissing them as unhelpful, brainless cliches. What other options do you have? Grieving yourself to the grave, or never allowing yourself to grieve in the first place (which ends up causing more pain)?
I still get sad sometimes, about grandpa, Johnny, Minnie. I know I’ll be sad about Al for a while. But I’m trying to use the thing that hurts me the most about their deaths as the thing that heals me too –