"Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides." Lao Tzu
I write this blog post in memory of my adopted grandfather. I write this to mourn. I write this to process through my emotions. I write this as a thank you to him. I write this for me. As I type these words tears stream down my face. I breathe unevenly. I shudder under my own breath. I shake, my heart races, and my body caves into itself. I sit in silence letting the sounds of the world wash over me. I am saddened. I am distracted. I am distraught. I feel everything and nothing at the same time. The voice of my father telling me that my grandfather had passed away plays over and over in my head. I pulled to the parking of Best Buy and cried for 30 minutes to the point that I nearly threw up. Overcome with emotion, loss for words, and wanting nothing more than to just be with my family. Death is so final. Death is so decisive. Death is so poignant. One day a person is there, and then they are gone permanently. It is that loss of human connection that devastates me. It is a loss. It feels like losing. It feels like something is taken away from you. Regardless of how prepared you feel, when it happens it guts you. It feels like part of you is ripped away. It feels empty. It feels dark. It feels lifeless, like all the light has been stripped from you. Everyone mourns differently and for me it's just existing, letting it all wash over me, and coming to terms with this undeniable truth - someone I cared for is no long with us, AND yet still I know that memory, feelings, and emotions can overcome all to let the memory of someone lost stay with you. I'll always have that light. I'll never be enveloped in darkness. Wherever there is light there can never be darkness. I will mourn but my light will shine again; the world needs it to.
Nothing in this life prepares us for death or for dealing with it. It is beyond our realm of understanding. It is antithetical to everything life is. It doesn't make sense, and yet it is part of our life cycle. It doesn't make it any easier or any less real. Everyone manages the impact of a death in their own way. We have to figure it out. Some of us are able to process through it, accept it, and carry on. Others feel the heaviness that death brings on us for sustained periods of time. We have to do something that helps us manage our emotions, sort through our feelings, and gain some semblance of closure. We are not meant to carry the weight of our losses, sorrows, and pain with us permanently. We have to make sense of our experiences, do our self-work to sort ourselves out, and to move on. That doesn't mean we ever forget what we have endured, who/what we have parted ways with, or what it felt like but it does mean we take what we have learned from our life experiences, and leave the rest behind. Always forward, never back.
To my grandpa I want to say thank you for being part of my life, for who you were, and especially who you were to me. Every year of my birthday like clockwork he would call me at 6:45AM to wish me a happy birthday, call me bud, and hang up. When I would visit him he always greeted me with a laugh, and a hug. He would fight through the pain, coughing, and weakness to touch me and express his care. He would ask every single time I say him how I was doing, how school was going, and how I was making progress towards my goals. He was one of the first people to express support when I decided to change from medicine to education in my life path. He took the time to listen, asked what I wanted to do to make an impact on the world, and emphasized the importance of being happy above all else. When I left he kissed me on the forehead as if I was his own grandchild.
That meant so much to me. For a rich old white guy who grew up during the Jim Crow era to take on an entire family of Ghanaian immigrants, let alone black folx, his presence in my life was significant. He represented hope. He represented change. He represented progress. To all the people who claimed that their parents or grandparents were stuck in their ways, grew up in a different time period, or didn't know any better - he was proof all that pandering, excuse making, and cowardice was a farce. He never thought twice about the role he played. He never questioned adopting us as his own. He never distanced himself from us. I will never forget him making the journey from his house a neighborhood over with his wheelchair just to come celebrate with us when three of us graduated from medical school, college, and high school simultaneously. He showed up. He proved he cared. He gave unconditional support.
I will carry him with me for the rest of my days. I will remember him through all my accomplishments. I will cherish him as reminder that life is supposed to be fun, I'm supposed to be free, and that I should enjoy it while I can. I will hold his boldness, brazenness, and unfiltered commentary close to me. I will hold fond the memories of his excitement sharing his passion for model trains and the gargantuan collection that adorned his home. I will honor his legacy as a man that transcended time, space, and community to demonstrate an extraordinary kindness to love across race. I will strive to be someone who defies all expectations to show people what unconditional love looks like. I will. I. Will. X