Sometimes, we just don’t have any good answers for our children, especially when death is concerned. Sometimes, we just cannot make the pain go away. I had to fight myself against issuing generic platitudes to my grieving son because no answers were sufficient for the questions that he had when he lost his best friend suddenly.
Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.
I have four kids and two stepchildren that are the center of my universe. My youngest son, and third child, has suffered a tremendous loss at only the tender age of 13. His best friend and sidekick died. For the sake of his family’s privacy, I will call this young man Daryl in this article. Daryl will be remembered by more than his family. My son is going to make sure of that.
Daryl was a bright thirteen year old boy that liked to play video games online and basketball outside of my house with the local neighborhood boys. My son, Nolan bonded with him quickly over their mutual love for Kobe Bryant, dark humor, video games, and attitudes.
Daryl had fought and overcome cancer three times in his short little life. He had most recently gotten the stats to indicate he was beating it again.
You never heard him complain, but he had a life filled with pain. He would be missing in action during the worst parts, but continually stayed in contact with my son via online messaging. My son was not one to talk about it. Like many boys are apt to be when it comes to emotions, he dealt with it in his own way and still does.
When COVID came around, Daryl was confined to his room. His immune system was already battered so his parents weren’t taking any chances by not issuing a strict quarantine. They spent the summer playing video games online and plaguing each other with dark jokes and pranks. They were showing their love as boys will.
Three days before school was to be let back in session, Daryl’s mom went to wake him and found that he had passed away in his bed. Though he was beating the cancer, he had passed away from a sudden aneurism.
Nolan found out later on that day and came to tell me right away. They had played on the X-box the night before and he seemed fine, my son told me in shock.
As grief tends to do, it had a delayed reaction on Nolan. He would forget for a moment and then he would go to text him and remember. He would get online and remember.
I believe the grief took a toll on his immune system because within days he was fighting a huge swollen gland from a sudden bout of mono and strep throat. Days after getting on antibiotics, he developed a mono rash. He ended up missing the first two weeks back to school.
I didn’t realize how deep the friendship had gone until I took him to school on his first day. Signing him in, the office staff all gathered around and hugged him and told him how sorry they were. It seemed that the boys were something of a duo at the school.
A few weeks later, I came home from work and went to greet all of the kids, which is my routine when I come in the door. After I greet the animals, of course.
I found Nolan in his room thumbing through a journal. He told me that for art class they all had to keep an art journal with drawings, thoughts, and the such. He said that after class the art teacher had given Daryl’s art journal to him.
Without me even telling him, he told me that he wanted to make a copy for himself and carry the original to Daryl’s mother. The image of the young boy’s self painted image in the journal made tears well up in my own eyes. Not to mention the fact that my teenager, famous for no empathy towards anyone but himself within our household, was showing empathy towards Daryl’s family.
I took the journal to work and made the copy. It was filled with what you would expect from a thirteen year old boy being forced to journal, but I knew the gift would be a priceless artifact given to a grieving mother. Another link to a love like no other.
This will not be the last time my son experiences a tragedy. I am proud of the way he has handled this loss and the way he continues to keep Daryl’s memory alive by talking about him. All too often, people try and drown pain away by ignoring it. Only by dealing with our emotions will we ever truly heal from any heartbreak or pain.
There is no explanation for a life cut that short. I won’t lie and say it’s part of a plan I’m not privy to. The only thing I can say for sure is that where he went has to be so much better than what he went through here during his short, pain filled existence.
Hold your loved ones tight. We never know when a moment will be the last.
I know this was a depressing article so if you would like to laugh now, here is a link to my latest Medium article about being a Golddigger!
Picking on people comes naturally to me. My father was the king of humor, pranks, and shenanigans. Nobody was spared. I grew up never knowing if anything he said was to be taken seriously and respected or if I was in danger of mortal embarrassment.
Injuries were also known to happen as a result of his pranks. I, myself, was traumatized a few times and I know I was not alone. Yet, despite the pranks that failed, his humor has been the theme of his memory since his death. I have not heard many, if any, anecdotes that did not center around some joke he played on someone.
In his memory, I would like to put these pranks in writing. At least the ones that caused the most laughter and/or trauma. Has a dent in the world was not huge to all, but it was to me.
This prank was not only done by him, but was and is used widely in the south. In particular, it is used on city people or people that aren’t familiar with hunting or wildlife.
He would invite and hype up some new recruit to go snipe hunting. They would wake up at 6 am and dress up all in camouflage. Outfitted with black paint all over their face and twigs in their hair, they would all tote a canvas or burlap bag and a stick into the darkness. Dad would drop the newbie off at “his tree” with some convoluted instructions on how to trap and kill said snipe. Seeing as how snipe doesn’t exist, the newbie would be left by the tree for hours while the rest went back to bed.
This was widely considered to be the unofficial initiation into our family for a long time.
For as long as I can remember, my father worked at funeral homes. He would collect the dead during all hours, prepare cadavers, set up funerals, and many other things that go into the business of death.
As a child, I would have to go with him in the middle of the night often to collect the bodies. At first, I was terrified and he played upon that a great deal. But, he taught me invaluable advice which was not to be scared of the dead. It’s the living that hurt you.
The staff at the funeral home were very professional and were good at what they did. They were caring towards the bereaved and respectful at all times. When the home was empty and free of any services though, they brought the morale from depressing to fun in a variety of ways.
At my father’s funeral, the staff told stories about the number of new employees they had lost due to my father hiding in the storage trays, for the dead, during the new employee’s tour of the new workplace. When said employee got close, the tour guide would pull out the tray that my father was hiding in and my father would jump up and scare the ever loving shit out of them. It was priceless, but also traumatic.
That phrase, priceless, but traumatic, explains my father and my childhood to a tee.
In today’s times, this would have landed my father in jail, but the eighties were a different time with different rules. He loved to hoist me up onto the roof of my grandmother’s mobile home. After encouraging me to carefully look around, he would disappear. I would be stuck on the roof from minutes to, what felt like, hours.
Personally, I didn’t enjoy this as much as he did.
One of his other pranks got him in trouble with my grandmother. I was around seven years old and taking a bubble bath in her garden tub which was the epitome of luxury back then. My dad came in to check on me and pulls a turtle out from behind his back. I was terrified of turtles because my dad liked to talk about snapping turtles very frequently. He said that if you were bitten by one, you had to wait for lightning before you could get it off.
Of course, in my child’s mind, I immediately was imagining how tough my life would be with a turtle dangling from my finger for months on end.
So as any terrified child would do I jumped out of the tub and immediately fell and smashed a hole in the sheet rock with my elbow. Which caused my grandmother to get mad at him because ruining her house is taking it too far. Apparently my sanity was fair game.
It’s been 12 years since his death and I miss his sense of humor more than anything no matter how traumatic it may have been at the time. I have inherited his ability to take life with a grain of salt. He and I both use humor and you to get through anything that life throws our way.
I look forward to seeing him again one day and I take comfort in knowing that my sister is up there in heaven with him now keeping him company. And, no, I don’t have any doubts that he made it there.
Some of these might explain my weirdness. My mom is not off the hook for that though, as she was also a factor in my personality.
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