In late 2013 and early 2014, I lost three grandparents within four months.
It was unbearable. It was unexpected. And it was downright shitty luck (for everyone).
My parents were crushed, as they should’ve been, but they still managed to keep our family cohesive during such a misfortunate time.
I was 20 when it all happened and it showed me a harsh reality, as I hadn’t experienced a family death—let alone three—in many years.
I learned that life is filled with suffering. It’s a tragedy, actually, and the least you can do is avoid turning that tragedy into hell for yourself and for those around you.
This realization came to me after the third funeral. My family and I were still in disbelief that we were at the funeral home… again. And it did not get easier.
But it hit me when I was talking to my cousins before the ceremonies had begun. They’re around my age and we always have a good time together, but obviously this type of situation can bring down even the strongest spirits.
I noticed, however, that I was subconsciously doing everything I could to make them smile. I was using subtle jokes here and there to see if I could even attempt to pierce the tension in the room, making things a little easier on everyone.
Fortunately, it worked.
I could see a small sense of relief come over them, a refreshing reminder that everything was going to be okay as they cracked a smile and wiped back tears.
Even though I was one thought away from slipping into tears myself, I knew this is the type of person my grandparents would’ve wanted me to be.
They would want me to be strong; to be the person everyone else can lean on when things like this happen.
I had every reason to find a corner and cry my eyes out as the world seemed to be crashing down on me, but I knew that wouldn’t change anything.
And I don’t tell you this story in hopes of self-aggrandizement, but instead to shed light on the opportunities of maturation that come from such tragic events such as a death in the family. I want to encourage aligning yourself so that in the future, you are the shoulder that your siblings cry on when you’re at your parents’ deathbed.
With tears in my eyes as a write this, I ask of you just two things: Be the reliable person at the funeral and don’t ever take your loved ones for granted.
R.I.P. Papaw, Oma, and Mimi