Death of a Loved One
When I was twelve, I watched my father die; I was the last person he spoke to.
After kissing me good night, my father had a heart attack on his way from my room to the bathroom. When he fell, my mom came down the hall immediately. He wasn’t responding to her. My mom woke my older sister who started CPR. My mother called for an ambulance and then my aunt. The paramedics arrived, took over CPR, and hooked my dad to a beeping machine.
When my aunt arrived, she saw me watching the paramedics. There wasn’t enough room in the hallway for her to pass and keep me from watching. They got him stabilized and began to move him; however, the machine started making another, different noise. That noise is burned into my memory. One of the paramedics said he was “flat lining” and they had to keep moving. They began CPR again and moved toward the ambulance. When the opportunity presented itself, my aunt came toward me, grabbed my arm and pulled me off the bed. We rushed down the hall to my younger sister’s room where my aunt told me to stay.
I looked at my sleeping sister as anger overtook me. I picked up her teddy bear and threw it at her. She was startled awake. I told her dad was on his way to the hospital. She asked me why; at the time I didn’t really understand what had happened and just shrugged my shoulders. We peeked into the hallway, it was empty. We crept into my room. The last of my sisters was sleeping there. After waking her, my aunt’s voice boomed, “You girls can come out here. Your mom and dad will be back in a couple of hours.” In less then an hour, our mom returned. She was red-faced and had been crying. She looked at the four of us and started to cry again. My father was dead. Life would never been the same.
Many years later, a local school principle was shot and killed in his office. Just like with my father, the community mourned. At the candle light vigil in his remembrance, I overheard two teens making plans for the following week. It got me thinking that life goes on. After someone we know dies, life goes on and some of us never give it a second thought. What about the family? What do they do?
As I am sure you’re aware, Steven Paul Jobs died recently. This was not unexpected. That didn’t take the hurt out of it, did it? This time the world mourns. From his garage, Mr. Jobs assembled computers with Steve Wozniak. These two men not only brought us their version of the personal computer, but the knowledge that hard work can make dreams come true. For the next month, and maybe the rest of the year, there will be talk about Mr. Jobs. Apple and Pixar will get a new CEO. Life will go on. People who didn’t know him in life didn’t even pause. However, for people who knew him, they will mourn Mr. Jobs for a while and then they will move on. For the Jobs family, there is a missing family member. There isn’t a moment they will forget; heartbreak will still be there, even six months from now.
At my father’s wake, I was told “time heals all wounds.” It wasn’t comforting then. It is still not comforting, now thirty years later. Is a death in the family considered a wound? I say no. I remember eating take out for two weeks after my dad died. My mom just was not in the mood to make dinner.
Flowers are nice to send, but they will die too, and the family will have to throw them out. In addition to flowers, send a food dish they can freeze and eat later. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry” say “if there is anything you need, call me.” My advice to you is this, if you know someone who has lost a family member, check in with them occasionally. Even long after the funeral, they may need comforting, feeling they are alone since their loved one has passed.