Happy Birthday Evelyn
When we are young, if we are lucky, we never have to face the death of someone close to us. My first encounter with death was at 19, still a kid by many standards, but still considered a man. Was serving my country on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean when I learned of the sudden death of my father. Not only was I was distant from my father emotionally, but I was physically distant from the situation. Being distant helped me in some ways to process what had happened.
The next time I encountered death was when my uncle, my father’s brother, developed cancer from exposure to Agent Orange during his duty in Vietnam. This death was much harder for me to process because I had the opportunity to say goodbye to him before he passed. I remember sitting in the driveway of his house, waving to him for the last time from the car, and just wanting to go home. It was one of the hardest experiences of my life up to that point.
In 2012, a year before Evelyn’s death, my mother died from COPD. Her death was not unexpected. I knew that it was coming and I had time to prepare emotionally, and I knew that when she passed she would be better off.
When we are young, unless we experience the death of someone close to us, no one prepares us for the inevitability that someone in your future will die. Of course, we know that our parents will die someday, and we expect them to pass at ripe old ages having lived full and productive lives, but there is no expectation that we will outlive our own children. It is not the normal way of things. You hear about other peoples’ experiences, other parents who lose their kids. It is on TV, in the paper, and all over the Internet. You ponder for a moment what you would do, how you would react to the loss of one of your own, a brief moment, and then you go on with your daily routine.
Today and every day is a struggle. It is a struggle to appear normal to those who do not know, to those without compassion, and to those who just do not know what to do. In our culture, death is a taboo topic. When someone dies, we rush to bury them, we rush to get passed it, and then seemingly well-meaning people push us to get on with our lives. There is no time to grieve and certainly not around them. We are conditioned to hide our pain. We are expected to go see a grief counselor to deal with it. Don’t bring it to work, don’t bring it to the party, leave that shit at home.
For many employers the standard practice is to give three days of bereavement. For the birth of a child, you can take eight weeks off, but for the death of an immediate family member, most times you get three days. Think about that. I was luckier than most.
Many people just do not know what to say to you or how to act around you. They are awkward, they stutter, they fumble for words. Eventually they do not talk to you anymore, because they do not know how to help you and avoiding you is easier. I have been fortunate in that I have a great support system in my friends and family.
I think about Evelyn every day, but today she is on my mind more than other days. Today is her birthday. She would have been 21 years old today. Finally an adult. She had big plans for her life. She was a model. She was beautiful, she was smart, and she was great with people. She was elegant and sophisticated, just like her mother. She was a strong young woman full of aspirations and goals.
It is funny that when someone is no longer in your life anymore, you miss the annoying things more than anything else. You would give anything to have them back, poking you in the face while you slept, or making rude noises during a movie, or constantly telling them to clean up their room.
My beliefs prevent me from thinking that I will ever see her again. However, that does not mean that I have given up the hope that I am wrong. I miss my daughter.
Happy Birthday Evelyn! I love you!