Death is my nemesis. I despise death, I loathe death. And yes, I fear death. I get it, it's part of the circle of life, we all have to die sometime, we can't live forever, it's part of the natural progression of things, blah blah blahtity fucking blah. I don't care. Death and I are not friends. We never really have been.
I remember my first real experience with death, I was 5. My mom and I flew from our home in Southern Illinois to San Diego, CA. It was exciting for me as a kid. My first airplane ride, the first real big trip, that I remember. But the reason sucked. My great-great grandmother had passed away and we were going to her funeral. I was going to see family that hadn't seen me since I was really little, so for me it was like meeting them for the first time, and for some they were meeting me for the first time. I kind of remember mom trying to explain death to me, and I kind of remember sort of understanding it, but not really. Then we went to the actual funeral. Everyone was dressed in really nice clothes, but they were almost all in black. And everyone looked so sad. I remember a lot of talking, and music, and crying. And then everyone got in a line to walk by this big fancy box at the front. Being so small I couldn't really see into it from where I was. I remember mom saying I didn't have to go up to see her if I didn't want to, but again me not totally understanding what was going on thought I was going to be meeting another relative. So I went up. That's when I saw her, laying there, dead. I started crying inconsolably. That's when I first comprehended what death really was. The body was still there, but the person was gone. It was a terrifying experience. I remember having dreams about great-great grandma's face for a long while after that.
It was only a couple of years later that I experienced my next loss, this time it was my beloved dog, Andy, quickly followed by our pet snake, Thora. Both animals had been in my life since birth, and both were a big blow to me. And while I never saw the bodies of my cherished friends the mention of their deaths brought back the image of great-great grandma lying lifeless in her casket. Since then through the years I have experienced losses of varying degrees, from a classmate who was struck by a car in the 5th grade to my aunt on my dad's side who died on cancer and then was closely followed by my granddad. My mom's brother also died, and that one was rough too. And to be honest I've never really recovered from one death before another one strikes. That rang true more than ever a few years ago.
In the course of a year my family lost 4 people that were very close to us, including my step dad, Ron, who I lovingly call Pops. Pops has been the hardest death of them all. Because I was there. I was there in the cold sterile hospital when he took his last breath and his heart stopped beating. Granted, he was surrounded by family and friends, but it was a horrible experience. The doctors said he was medicated enough that he was comfortable and felt no pain, but watching him struggle to breathe those last few breaths was so painful for me. I felt helpless to do anything but stand there and hold his hand and cry. And to this day all I can do is cry. I almost wish I hadn't been there because I hate that I remember him like that. I don't want those images in my head. I want to remember him smiling and laughing, but I can't. I can't make those images of him gasping for air go away. I can't make the images of us watching the monitors as his heart stopped beating go away. And I hate it, I hate death for taking him away like that. I hate people who say death is peaceful. It's not, I have seen it. There was nothing peaceful about it.
And I despise it when people tell me I am weak for not being able to grieve faster. I will grieve at my own damn pace thank you very much and you can just live with it or go away. There is nothing wrong with me, I am who I am. Just because I process death differently doesn't make me wrong or weak or broken. Everyone is different, and everyone grieves differently. How would you like it if I said that you grieve too fast so you must be a cold hearted bastard with no feelings at all? Sorry, slight off topic rant.
So, with all of that being said one would think I would stay as far away from death as I could right? You want to take a wild guess at what I do for a living? Just one little guess? I work in death fucking benefits! Yep that's right I work in death benefits for a pension program. I deal with families every day that have just lost a loved one. I talk to their spouses, their kids, their parents. I listen to them cry and yes, even scream. And then people wonder why I am always so close to a freaking mental breakdown. Yeah...