The Known Unknown

Death was here. I've seen the signs of its arrival and passing many times. I’ve come across proof of its existence but it always comes and goes without letting me say goodbye.

All the people I’ve lost to death left on obliviously bright days. I remembered feeling like nothing was particularly amiss that day, up until the moment of the announcement. Each death was unexpected. It’s been hard coming to terms with these losses. I don’t know what to truly think about death because it feels as if I’ve avoided it’s immediate presence and been a spectator instead.

The day my grandmother died, I had just started my first job in Korea. I was nervous but excited and my mind was full of thoughts about adapting to my new environment and making friends with everyone. I did not sense danger so I was distraught after hearing the news. My dad told me not to come home. He said to focus on getting settled and that  everything would be ok even if I didn’t fly back. But she was the only grandmother I’d ever known. I felt like I was betraying her spirit if I didn’t drop every responsibility and attend her funeral. In the end, though, I didn’t go.

The day my dog died, my mom, aunt and I were taking a day trip through different towns just outside of San Antonio and Austin, Texas. Now, before you ask why I’m comparing my dog’s death with my grandmother’s, know that this dog helped me get through my parents divorce, as well as my repatriation back to the U.S. She also lived with my cousin near the end of her life and helped their two newly adopted sons successfully integrate into the family.

My mom got a phone call as we exited a BBQ restaurant, and she told me and my aunt to wait in the car. When she returned, I sensed a mild seriousness in her countenance. My mom decided to only tell me that our dog was in the hospital. I continued our adventure in peace but my mom needed the trip’s distraction to hide her feelings. A couple of days later, my mom broke the news to me. Again, I was shocked. How had I not felt anything in that moment when death took my loved one away? I mourned her but my tears felt so belated that it made me feel even more miserable.

The day my good friend from college died, I was at an anime convention. I got a text message from her phone, from her husband, announcing her sudden death after being in a car accident. I thought, surely, I could make it to see her; I was only a few hours away. While waiting for information about her funeral, I found out it was already taking place and I would miss it. Not knowing how else to mourn her, I kept to myself and cried for weeks.

Why was I always so far away? Why was there no intuition of a loss until it was too late? What will happen when my parents pass away? Will I be on the other side of the world? Will I be with them? These experiences have made me wary of death. Less willing to be comfortable with the naturalness of it. I know death will come, but will I be strong or will I break completely if I see it up close?

Death is such a permanent goodbye. Even after leaving so many friends when moving away,  I still feel that having someone leave me behind in this world will be more painful. Only time will tell what kind of reaction I’ll have. While I don’t look forward to such an inevitable thing, I want to be strong enough for it when the moment comes.