Death: An Abnormal Part of Life

Death. I’ve experienced my fair share of deaths. Maybe more than my fair share. People will always say that “death is a part of living. It is natural.” Well I don’t agree with them. Most of the deaths I have been around haven’t been natural. In fact they were abnormal, unnatural, and all together different.
My first contact with death came when I was in 4th grade. A girl from my small Catholic school, who I had gone to summer camp with, had gone missing. I remember everyone wearing her face on pins. I still have one of those pins. The search went on for weeks. My sister and I made our parents take us to go see the family one day after school because we were all friends at summer camp, two pairs of sisters. I remember playing with Maddie’s sister and the dogs. I can’t remember the sister’s name anymore. My parents used to go out to the forests and help search or a body. Then they found her, under her neighbor’s water bed, dead for weeks. They built a new playground and put her name on it. Everyone who knew her is now far too old to play on that playground. I don’t really remember anything about her, except that she had a leopard print shirt on in the picture on the pin. The bikers have a ride of some kind every year for her, or at least they did. I haven’t seen them around much. I came across a Facebook group honoring her. I joined it, but never check in.
The next contact with death came when I was a little older in 6th grad, I think it was. I knew this person better, he was my grandfather. We always just called him Grandpa. Later I learned that his name was Gerald Patrick Kelley Sr. I also learned that he was a war hero with all kinds of awards and medals, but that was years later. I don’t see him as a war hero. I see him with a slightly balding head of white hair and a beer belly with curly white hairs covering it, wearing yellow swim trunks as he walks with his cane down the stairs to the garage so he can enjoy a soak in the hot tub. That is how I remember Grandpa. I went to his funeral. The only thing I remember from it was my cousin asking when Grandpa was getting up. He is not getting up to start the Wizard of Oz on the old T.V. in the big downstairs bedroom where we always stayed. Mom started smoking after he died.
Then there was Mrs. Kelley my kindergarten teacher who died while I was in 7th or 8th grade. She died in a hit and run. Some kid hit her while she was on her bike. She always had such a nice smile. I really liked her. The same Catholic school that had a playground built for Maddie planted a few sunflowers in a median in the parking lot for Mrs. Kelley. My class went to visit the sunflower garden, as they called it. There was a plaque with her name on it. I went back, several years later, to pick up my brother from school, the flowers were all dead and gone, but the plaque was still there. A dirty little reminder hidden in the parking lot of the first teacher I had at that school I spent 9 years at.
I was at camp in the summer between 9th and 10th grade when I got a call from daddy. I knew something was up, because we usually weren’t allowed to get phone calls. He told me my Uncle Tim had died. I went back to my cabin and cried as I tried to fit all my belongings in a suitcase and a trunk. I was leaving early to go to the funeral. Everything was overflowing including my backpack. I remember that a bunch of people were talking about Uncle Tim at his funeral. There were lots of flowers by the altar. Uncle Mike was training to become a priest and helped with the mass. I was still catholic at the time, so I had communion. I remember seeing a giant organ in the balcony at the back of the church. I remember my Uncle Tim took me, my brother, my sister, and my three cousins to Toy R Us and let us get anything we wanted. I don’t know if it was me or my sister who got the giant Barbie house, but that is the only present I remember. Another time, much later he came to visit us again. We went to Famous Amos, he loved breakfast. He had popcorn stuck in his beard when he gave me a hug. Then he made up Spanish, something about “el highwayo”. I still don’t really know how he died. My Aunt Mary who is a nurse said it was a bad reaction of medications that the doctors gave him and the herbal supplements he took. We got his six dogs because we wanted to keep them together but no one else would take them. Mom started smoking again.
There was a suicide at my school when I was in 10th grade. It was a guy we all called Squirrely. I think his real name was either Dave or Chris. I can’t remember if he shot himself or if he hung himself. All I know was that it was his brother who found him, poor kid. People say he killed himself over a girl who broke his heart, but I have no idea. He was in my speech giving class freshman year. He always had better stories about why his work was late, than his actually speeches. He also had this pair of huge neon parachute pants. There was a whole page in the Oracle, our literary magazine, dedicated to him. It featured some of his work and a few pictures of him. I haven’t heard anything else about him.
The only death I clearly remember all the details was Matt’s death in 12th grade. His is the only picture I brought with me to college. Perhaps that is because it has not even been a year. Or maybe it is because I saw him every day so it was the most drastic change. I remember that day so well because it was the worst day of my life. No one else will ever know how hard it is too wait. I feel like a got a slight taste of what Maddie’s parents went through. It was this death that changed my entire world. School, game club, and even the movies were never the same again. Everything reminded me of him. I got to take care of one of his snakes, Jenny for awhile. I had to give her away when I went to college. People seemed to spiral out of control after his death. I remember every detail of what he looked like, but I fear that in time, he too will just be a vague memory, a picture on the telephone pole he hit, a small sign that “drive carefully in memory of Matthew Scott Brzozowski”. He too has a Facebook group I never check. The only difference, I made this one.
So of the deaths I have experienced in my life only one of them was natural. The rest are abnormal and cruel. People taken way before their time, good people too. So do not tell me death is natural, because most of the time, it is not. Each person has a different memorial and a different memory in my heart.

Death: An Abnormal Part of Life

CassandraLavenza

Joined November 2007

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