I am currently reading a Stephen King book in which the main character is involved in a lot of self discovery through memories. Reading this book has me thinking about my own memories, and how they have impacted my life. Being a Stephen King book, there is an element of “scariness” involved in order to make the novel suspenseful. So as a natural extension, I’ve been thinking back to the bad memories I have, those times that truly unsettled me. I realized I don’t have a lot of bad memories, that most of my life has been relatively tame and bearable. However, there is one memory that stands out as being very painful for me.

During my later years of college (I had several) my grandfather on my mother’s side became sick. I never knew my grandparents on my father’s side as they had passed on before I was born. The sickness was very debilitating, and followed a few years of medical problems that ranged from minor to traumatic. I’m not quite sure, in the end, what the problem had been that caused my grandfather to die, time had not been good to myself and my grandparents. I loved them, but events and distance had drawn me away from them and subconsciously I think I vowed that I would never look back.

The call came, though, as they inevitably do, and my brother and I began to make arrangements to go back home, to Louisiana. I had lived in Georgia for about three years at the time, and my parent’s house in Louisiana still represented some form of home. I assume that the place we grow up will always remain a “home” to some form of us, as I’ve lived in Georgia for nearly five years now, two of which I’ve lived on my own, and I still sometimes think of that old house as home. This represents a constant struggle for me, as most of my friends are younger, still in college, and still have that home. There are times when I am feeling specifically lonely, that I realize when everyone talks about going home and how comfortable they are there, I am home, I don’t have that luxury of a place to run to for escape. That’s a story for another day, though.

I took the death of my grandfather well. I believe there was an emotional disconnect between myself and my family during those days that I was in Louisiana for the funeral. That side of the family was on my bad side, simply for things that had happened, words that had been said. Sometimes the dark times in our lives draw out the best, sometimes they draw out the worst, and I am afraid that in my mother’s side of the family, the dark times pull the worst of them out. My brother and I, with my cousins, were to be pallbearers in the funeral.

I always thought of this as a somewhat strange request of me. Anyone who knows me, and then meets my family, typically wonders where I came from. I could, possibly be the smallest person in my family. Most of my cousins are at least five or six inches taller and possibly hundreds of pounds (mostly muscle) bigger than me. My grandfather once told me that I reminded him of his father, my great grandfather, who “never made it over 130 pounds in his life, but was as strong as an ox.” I’m not sure if I’ll ever make the ox portion of that description, but I’ve got the weight down.

The painful memory I speak of, though, does not concern my duties as a pallbearer. Granted, it was one of the more difficult things I had to do, and I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll ever agree to again, I am proud that I was able to give that one bit of strength, however small, for my family. The difficult memory is one of my mother during that time.

As I said before, I was relatively unscathed by the passing of my grandfather. At some point in time I remember wondering if I was emotionally stunted because I was not taking his death as hard as others. I realize now that it was simply just my way of dealing with what had happened. My mother, understandably, did not take it so well. I am very proud of my mother, she has done some difficult things in her life, and been strong when the time has called upon her to do so. She even yelled at me once, which for the quiet and diminutive woman she is, that is a major accomplishment.

Growing up, my mother was the person I talked to most. I guess it was her softer side that made it easy to do so. I won’t say I have a special emotional connection to her over my dad, I think it is just a different one. My connections to them are slight to begin with. I’ve always felt since I was a teenager, that I did my own thing most of the time. Because of my distance to them, it was hard to figure out how each of them would react to the news. I knew my dad would be the strong one in the room, providing support to my mom. I figured my mom would endure, as she had much the rest of her life.

For most of that time she did endure, and she handled it well. She had broken bouts of crying, which she controlled and in which we tried to distract her from. The not only understandable, but expected, tears of a daughter who had lost her father. That type of pain you do not try to confront, but rather distract. And so we tried to spend time together as a family, doing the things we knew would keep her mind off of the coming events.

The day came, and we all made our way to the places we needed to be. Most of the past couple of days had been family getting together that had not all been in the same location together in years, so there was a lot of sharing about what was going on in each other’s world. That day was mostly the same, but with a subdued tone involved. There were hushed discussions about many random things, and up until the time came for the service to start, there was a good nature glow about the church.

The service proceeded, and ended in what seemed like no time at all, however I understand it was at least an hour long. There were several speakers, my grandfather was a man who had made a name for himself in the area, and there were a lot of memories to be shared, and spoken about. I was distracted, mostly, by people watching. I was surrounded by my family, and was intensely focused on seeing how each of them reacted. It was important to me that I realize I wasn’t the only person in the boat I was in.

During the family time, once everyone had left, we each had a few moments to pay respects. It was then that I witnessed what would break my heart that day. I did not shed a tear about everything that had happened until I saw my mother. I had never seen her in such pain. At that point in her life, I believe she was mostly broken by losing my grandfather. There was no more silent, held in crying, it broke like a dam and flooded out. She had been trying so hard those few days to remain as strong as she could and I believe her will gave way. What exactly I witnessed is not for the rest of the world, I’m not sure I will share it with most people, but I know it impacted me hard. I appreciate my mother for showing me the truth of how savored a life should be, and how people should feel when your life comes to an end.

I know that I never want to see my mother in that condition again, as seeing her as such did something to me as well. I fought to hold back the tears for her, to be strong for her, but even I was weeping silently, a few seconds of my walls coming down as well. Unfortunately, the day had to move on, and so did we. I was touched by that moment, but I know I never want to relive it. I’ll be happy if I make it through the rest of my life, never having to face the broken-hearted sobs of someone in which I cannot take their pain from them. I’ll gladly do anything that needs to be done to prevent that.

It occurs to me, sadly, that this will not be the case. I am destined to face times in my life where I am helpless to comfort the grieving of those I care about. Not only that, I am sure that I will be there beside them, my own tears falling with theirs. I just hope that I can steel myself for those times.