On Friday I went to a funeral for the third time this year.
A great uncle of mine has passed away, one I didn’t have a real bond with, but since he lived in the building next to ours I used to see him walking around frequently and we always used to wave at each other. He was one of the characters of the neighbourhood: 1,90 metres tall and with his large shoulders he walked around with his tiny dog on a leash, creating a funny contrast which reminded me of Obelix (from Asterix and Obelix) and his doggie. If you were out, you knew for sure that you had good chances to bump into him and receive a polite ‘hi’.
Now he is gone, and from one day to another.
I know it could sound a little selfish. People are struggling with the unbearable pain of letting a loved one go. My pain was “almost” bearable. So, what does this “almost” mean? Is it just me not putting up with my feelings because this was so unexpected that I haven’t realized yet?
In Spring, one of my dad’s cousins died. He was in his fifties and had been fighting against a really bad illness for several months. Even though we weren’t that close, his loss really shocked me. Not only because he was relatively young but also because I knew his loving and caring family, people who always had nothing but love for everyone close to them. As soon as I thought about their grief, I started to feel emotionally involved. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than parents burying their own child. Honestly, I don’t know if I would ever be able recover.
But then again, I think that knowing about the illness several months before the death should make the grief less harder, less “strange”. But who are we to say that it can’t be.
That’s what I can’t stand: the fragile, irrational, fleeting nature of life. Maybe because I’m a control freak and I am what I am because of death.
Maybe I need to make sense of things by organizing and labelling them because deep down I believe that they do not make sense at all. Maybe I am too scared to admit that it’s just the way things are. Maybe I should admit it in order to start really enjoying life and tasting the flavour of existence, sensing the different shadows of colours.
I suppose that it is the same awareness assaulting me some nights when I put myself to sleep. It’s a boulder on my chest that makes my breathing harder. And sometimes I feel so impotent and anxious.
I had my first panic attack when I was eight years old while I was in the car with my parents. That day I realized that I was going to die. Not in that exact moment, not the day after, but sooner or later I was going to and this solid, raw certainty hit me hard. I cried, and screamed, and cried again until I knew I had not to think about it anymore, accepting that it is part of the natural circle of life.
That day we were driving to my grandparents’ place. They lived in a house between the mountains and once there, time seemed to have stopped, but apparently it felt like that just for me.
My grandfather ticked the days on the calendar by tracing a big black X with a permanent marker on them. As a child, this thing used to upset me, but I couldn’t figure out why.
Right next to the calendar there was hung a flyswatter, which grandpa used to kill all the little flying insects. Sometimes I would pick up the ones fallen on the ground and I would make a small pile in the garden, staring with innocent curiosity and for a long time at the ones that still flapped their wings struggling between life and death, until exhausted they just gave up.
Are we only flies that a big giant entity crushes for its own amusement? In order to survive, do we need to escape the random thumps of a fly swatter? This question became concrete only years later.
I guess I’ll just have to accept the truth: I will never know.