On this day twenty-one years ago, I could tell you where I was. I can bring pieces of memories to the surface like it was something that has just happened.
I remember the helpless feeling of being a kid who couldn’t change a thing happening but wishing that I could. I remember the exact watch I stared at moments after my Papal passed away. I can still hear my Dad, who I had always thought was invincible, crying until he snubbed. I had gone with my cousin to find coffee cups and stepped off of that elevator to find out my world had changed. In just a blink of an eye, I went from hopeful to heartbroken.
My Papal had been admitted to the hospital for something small. I don’t remember exactly but my mind says pneumonia. It’s something people recover from all the time, and I believe he could have recovered too but other things went wrong.
One thing led to another and within 10 days his bowels had ruptured, filling his body with infection. Surgery was the way to fix it. He never made it to recovery.
My other grandparents had passed away when I was very young or before I was born. And even though I had seen them, remembered them, and was even there when my Grandmother took her last breath, it wasn’t something I could understand at the time.
This, on the other hand, was my first up close look at death and how permanent it felt.
I was very close to my Papal. He lived next door to me in the house that I now live in. To see him go was a hard thing to deal with. I coped the best I could.
Today, once again on June 1st, I was in death’s presence as I attended a funeral for my aunt. As I walked among the tombstones, I thought about how frail life really is and how fast the years go by.
When my Dad was a child himself, my Papal planted pine trees behind my house. They grew bigger every year but my Papal had made his family promise not to have them cut until he died.
Twenty-one years have passed and I held on to the belief that the pines should be left alone for many of those years. After all, it was one thing that must have been special to my Papal, so that made them special to me.
I fought the thought of having them cut until one day I realized that my parents’ life could be in danger because of them. The pines too had grown old and began to die. Limbs would fall and they would creak when the wind blew. I finally accepted that it was time to let them go before they had a chance to fall on my parents’ home.
Last week, the first half of them was cut to the ground. It’s bittersweet to let them go, but it has to be done.
Sometimes life is like those pine trees. Time passes so quickly that you don’t realize how much things have changed until you look up one day and find that little ones are grown and old ones have died out.
Sometimes we let little things grow into big things that could harm us. We let little habits become constant burdens. We sometimes need to realize that the things that used to bring us joy are now toxic to us and we need to let them go.
Death isn’t choosy. You don’t have to be old to die. You don’t have to be sick to die. You only need to be alive to die.
Too often we let our tomorrows become yesterdays without really living them. We let time slip though our hands only to realize we can’t get it back. We forgot to tell those we care about that we love them because we think they will always be there. The truth is…they won’t.
We need to take the time to show others we care. We need to live instead of just being alive. We need to leave behind something that people will want to remember. And we need to know when it’s time to cut down “the pines” in our lives that’s doing us more harm than good, whether that be resentment, grudges, sorrow or heartbreak.
Live. Forgive. And Love.