It is Better to Have Loved and Lost Than to Never Love At All
I mentioned this before that so much of my lifestyle inspiration comes from my Timehop and Facebook Memories. I love that social media is basically my own personal diary where I get to remember the good and the bad times of life.
Yesterday I was reminded about the death of my maternal grandfather. My paw paw was one in a fucking million. So was my maw maw. Unfortunately, their time came to an end with us before either of them had the chance to see me graduate, get married or have children. No matter how much time will pass, that will always sting.
My grandmother passed due to cancer on April 30, 2009. She passed just weeks before my high school graduation. I remember thinking about her that day a lot because she always said she wanted to live long enough to see us all walk across the stage. My grandfather passed just a few years later on September 24th, 2012.
Those two were amazing people. Living in their old house, I am constantly reminded of them. Sure it can be painful. Now with an amazing son growing up in that same house, I think about how much they would love him and ache for the fact he will never get to meet them.
But living there is also reminder of how lucky I was to have them in my life for the time I did. I will make sure little dude and any future children will know about their amazing great grandparents.
Not intentionally trying to quote Forrest Gump here, but death is a part of life. It is inevitable. You can either worry and let it kill you when the people or even animals you love pass or you can remember the great times and know those spirits are always with you…because you loved them.
That love created memories that will last a lifetime.
My earliest memory of death came when my Aunt June (my maw maw’s sister) passed away when I was maybe 4 or 5. I remember sitting in my parents bedroom when my mom told me as soon as she hung up the phone and I was floored in a tearful panic. It was my first real sense of loss.
I don’t remember a whole lot about her because of how young I was, but I do remember going to her house and there was always a popsicle with my name on it. That sounds cheesy, but that popsicle is a memory and a transfer of emotion for me. How could I remember something like that if it didn’t have some sort of meaning?
I lost Otto (first dog) when I was 10 or 11 years old. My dad had taken him outside one morning before school to use the bathroom. Maybe TMI, but he had shat this awful black tar and vile smelling poo. My parents took him to the vet and he stayed there for a few days to figure out what was wrong. Turned out he had some form of bone cancer I believe. My dad had picked me up from school that Monday and I was so excited because I was going to see my dog for what was likely going to be the last time.
As soon as I hopped in the car, I had asked if we were going to see Otto. I’ll never forget the look of sadness in my dad’s face that day before he was about rip my heart to shreds. I knew what was coming. He looked at me and said “no, you can’t.” I asked “did he die?” I instantly became hysterical because all I wanted was to tell him I love him and give him a giant hug.
I also remember Otto wanting to hump everything imaginable. Horny little shit. I remember my paw paw pouring his beer out for him. One night he got Otto a little too tipsy. He did this thing where he would sit on his butt and hind legs. He had good balance when he did it. On that day, he just tumbled over like a ton of bricks. I remember the day we picked him up. I remember running around in a field/backyard with him before driving home.
Around the same time, my dad lost his mom. I was never super close with her. I know how hard it hit my dad. I remember vividly the story he told me of how he found her. I won’t relay that out of respect for him.
I also remember drawing a picture for her before we evacuated for Hurricane George in 1998. When she passed, my dad and mom found that picture in her house among all the things she kept over the years. That kind of shook me. Not being super close to her, it meant a lot to me then that a picture I drew was one of the things she kept safe. It still means a lot to me.
A few years later when I was 16, I lost my Uncle Tony (my paw paw’s cousin) to cancer. We used to spend Thanksgiving with that side of my family most years. We evacuated for storms with them. After Katrina, they lived at our house for a while. I had grown fairly close to him. I remember my mom texted me that he had passed while I was in science class junior year. I told her call the school because I wanted to come home so she did. I left. I spent that afternoon in mourning and crying.
I will also never forget the time we spent together when he and my Aunt Marilyn lived with us for Katrina. One of the best parts of them living with us was him moseying on outside when I was playing football in the yard with friends. He would just stand in the driveway and watch. I remember one time I threw an interception trying to fit a ball in between two people. He called me over and just said “when in doubt, throw a bullet.” He had a way of doing that. He would give subtle sports and life tips here and there.
A year later, I lost my maw maw to cancer. She lived with us as my parents were her main source of care after her diagnosis. It was still a fresh wound after losing my uncle to lung cancer as well. That didn’t stop me from cherishing whatever time I had left.
I still remember the night she passed. I passed by her room to check on her. At this point, she was in a coma. I noticed a strange change in her breathing pattern. I called my mom and dad in the room and they phoned my paw paw. We sat in that room for an hour or two whispering for her to let go and be at peace. Of course mentioned how much we loved her. No one wanted to watch her suffer. She fought hard. I remember dreaming about her that night. I dreamt she was cured of cancer and everything was fine. That was only to be awaken by mom who told she passed in her sleep. I just remember waking up wishing that dream was my reality now.
When they came for her body, a red rose was left on her bed. Of course, we all began weeping.
I also remember sitting in her bed (in the same room I am writing this in) one night when I was 13 and laughing hysterically at a Larry the Cable Guy skit where he was this puppet baby thing and screamed “I made greeeeeen.” It was the most ridiculous set but we both for whatever reason found it to be hilarious.
I remember every morning for four years, she would wave and look for me from her kitchen window when my bus passed their house.
Then on September 24th, 2012, it was my paw paw’s time. My family had evacuated for a hurricane and I stayed back due to work. At this point, my paw paw was fighting a rough battle with Alzheimer’s. That small time away from his normal routine spiraled him into a whirlwind of mess. He was transferred through multiple locations because he was combative and not himself at all.
He slipped into a coma before I could even blink or have time to react to any of the news. I went and visited multiple times before he passed. My memory is pretty hazy on the moment I found out he passed because of how quickly it happened.
That being said, I remember every Sunday visiting him during his battle which meant the world to me. It didn’t matter that he told me the same three stories every time I visited. He would tell me about two of his neighbors and a military story about when a superior officer got pissed at him for not letting him in the barracks after being told by another superior to not let anyone in. After about 30 minutes to an hour, he would say with a smile, “welp, I love you to death. But get the hell out my house. I got shit to do.”
Sundays were pretty rough for a while after that because I would always go visit him before heading to the Superdome on Sundays. It became one of my weekly traditions in college. I didn’t get to see him during the week and I worked football games on Saturdays. So Sunday was my only free day. I wanted to make sure that I made time for him.
I will always remember the time he picked me up from school because I was “sick” when in reality I just wanted to go buy NFL Street. He took me to do that and called my bluff as soon as he picked me up. He just said “don’t tell your mother.” I didn’t. The first day she found out (at least from my mouth) was the day I read his eulogy.
The man never missed a damn sporting event of mine until I was 16 because age started catching up. He was at the field before me sometimes and I usually caught a ride with my coach. Clearly, he was dedicated to me playing baseball. He would take his spot behind home plate and watch the entire game from there. He didn’t mingle with anyone when he watched because he was fully engaged with the what I was doing on the field.
I can still hear his voice from the stands “ahh, keep your eye on the ball damn it” or “get you glove down.” He was a sideline coach for sure.
When I was a child, I had a fascination with wanting to know what lived in bodies of water so I would always ask the question even if I had been given an answer before. Literally every time I would ask my paw paw, he would say “little boys who ask too many questions.”
In August of 2014, my Uncle Allen (Maw Maw’s brother) passed away. He had become estranged and combative toward the end and didn’t remember many people. I didn’t get to see too much of him once that happened. So I don’t have a distinct memory of his death like some of the others.
I do remember visiting his airplane hanger when I was a small child. I remember sitting by the fire on cold Thanksgiving’s with him talking. I still remember every birthday and Christmas that there was savings bond with my name on it from him. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and a savings bond from Uncle Allen.
The last non human I lost was my dog Bacchus who was put down on September 30th, 2015. I still remember being at work when I got the call from my mom that putting him down was the likely option. She called me to come to make the final decision.
He was a dachshund, a breed notoriously known for bad backs. He had already had one surgery that saved his life. At this point, he was getting older and fatter and his back gave out. He was brought in a few weeks prior and received an injection which eventually wore off. When I got to the vet, my mom put him down because he got so excited to see me and the poor dude’s back legs just didn’t work so he used his front legs to barely make it to me.
I talked to the vet and there wasn’t much else to do. They could keep giving him injections to prolong his life. But there was no quality of life. He spent most of his time curled up in the closet or under the bed secluded and not wanting to be bothered. I decided to have him put down. That was one of the hardest things to witness. It is very calming and peaceful, but watching a living being take it’s final breath is heavy stuff.
He was a total troll of a dog. He would literally run under beds and not come out until he heard a treat drop on the floor. I still remember flipping my shit because he brought a damn rat in the house after capturing it and breaking it’s neck. Savage life.
Despite the pain of losing someone or something we love, I wouldn’t trade any moment I spent with them while they were alive. I am not afraid of the pain that comes. It is important to love hard and have meaning for your relationships. I could use a lot of words to describe myself, but lonely isn’t one of them.
I have always surrounded myself with people I love and will always do that. Sure, that will make for some painful times at some point or another. But shit, life goes on. That doesn’t mean you can’t grieve or mourn because you should. It is important to also continue living your own life.
If we fear loss instead of embracing love and relationships, we also wouldn’t be able to cherish a lot of those little memories that are stored deep within our heads and hearts. That is the good stuff.
Yeah I miss all of the loved ones I have lost, but they’re not gone. They’re not forgotten. They will always be with me in some capacity. Unfortunately, it has to be enough.