Sarah O’Connor / Silhouette Staff
Last weekend, my eighty-seven year old grandfather died. He had been in St. Joseph’s for a month and after fluctuating from dialysis to getting off dialysis, from possibly coming home to never coming home, and he finally passed away. He wasn’t suffering anymore. His breathing stopped first, his heart soon followed.
My grandpa always read my articles in The Silhouette. When I told him in September that I would be writing for my University’s paper, he asked me to bring two papers each week I saw him. One for him, one for me. After reading my first article, it was my grandpa who said, “This is what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life.”
He was a World War Two veteran – he helped liberate Holland. But this wasn’t something he bragged about. It was something we knew as a family, something we were immensely proud of. Every Remembrance Day, he would show us his war medals and tell us war stories. He always seemed so strong.
The war was in the past, but it was one day when he came for dinner with a troubled mind that he told my dad, “Some days, the war doesn’t leave you.”
He was alone for a long time. My Nana, his wife, passed away ten years earlier, and while he had his children and grandchildren, he missed her, and I know it was hard for him to live without her. My family and I comforted ourselves that he was now with my Nana and his brothers, who had died so many years earlier.
Death can really make you think. I was nine when my Nana died, and it was easy for me to believe that she went to Heaven. She was with God, she was healthy and she was watching over us. As an adult, it isn’t so easy to believe that dead relatives go to Heaven. It is still a concept I think of, and I still say that they’re both in Heaven happy now, but the world changes you.
When you grow up, ideas so simply believed as a child are no longer simple. All that has been learned while growing up has clouded faith. It’s too good to be true that a loved one can pass on to another world where there’s no pain, no stress, no worry. It’s too good to be true. But so many people believe it.
I believe it because it is my faith. Though I question my faith often, I need to believe. I don’t know who I’d be or how I’d function without it. But this makes me question why we believe these things. Faith is a good part of it, but I think it’s because we don’t want our loved ones to be forgotten.
We can’t let ourselves think that they are gone forever, their bodies rotting underneath the ground or their ashes carefully preserved in a wall. We can’t accept that they’re gone, no longer with us. We create an afterlife for them and for us so that death is no longer a mystery. There is a destination, an answer.
Is this the right way to think? Not necessarily. While people may have made up the afterlife as a way to cope, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There is no way to prove it is there, though some people speak of ghost sightings and dreams from the dead. Those people could be telling the truth, or they could have an over-active imagination. We just don’t know.
But we don’t want our loved ones to be forgotten. So we buy thousand-dollar caskets, fancy tombstones and flowers for corpses.
Even in death, possessions mark if a person was loved or not, if they were wealthy or poor. Even in death we are judged. We try to keep our loved ones remembered, because we loved them so much. For them to be forgotten is a crime.
We try to seek an answer all our life – an answer to life and death. Both are unknown for us. We live trying to discover why life is hard and why bad things happen to good people, and we try to discover what happens after life. What is there? Is there anything? Both life and death are inevitable, and maybe if people decided to just live and die instead of seeking an answer and planning too far ahead, maybe, just maybe we won’t fear it. Maybe that’s the answer to both questions, to life and death.
I’m over-thinking. Death does that to a person. And whatever life and death is, in the end, our human desire is to be remembered. We don’t want to turn to dust with faded headstones, forgotten forever.
So I remember my grandpa, and others will too, most likely as a group for his duty to Canada so many years before, and some like me will remember him as an individual. And maybe you will too, as words on paper, a stranger you’ll never meet but a stranger you know. That is, if you’ve read to the end.