Getting through the night


Graphic by Anna Villano.

Mari Brown, Staff Writer & Featured Columnist

Continued from Issue 4, Vol. 69 of the Wildcat Tales

Death is something that all of us will encounter in some point of life, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a loved one. When we are younger, we don’t recognize the fact that life comes to an end for all. We just assume that we all live forever and death is nonexistent.

Reality hit me upside the head when I was a third grader. My papaw was sick due to lung cancer.

I remember the night I received the news of his death. We had visited him a couple weeks before at the hospital. It had been the first time I visited a sick person at a hospital before, the first time I saw my dad cry.

That night my sister and I were about to take our shower when our dad called us all downstairs to his office. He told us the news and said we were leaving for Alabama tomorrow morning, where the funeral was being held.

Graphic by Anna Villano.
Graphic by Anna Villano.

The drive there was quiet — we didn’t really have much to say. I think we were all remembering Papaw and the memories we’d had with him. Sadly my memories of him were very limited — he was very intimidating to me due to his towering stature. You see, the thing is whenever I visited Nana and Papaw I would always watch TV. They had cable, which was something we didn’t have back home yet. Now I regret watching T.V because I never talked to him much. I never got to bond with him as much as I would’ve liked to. He was just a presence in my life that I sadly didn’t acknowledge much.

It was the first funeral I had ever attended. It was also the hardest I had ever cried. I never knew I could cry that hard, especially about someone I didn’t know that well, but maybe that’s why I cried so hard. I remember my dad and Uncle Jeff giving their eulogies. I actually learned a lot about Papaw from their eulogy, more than I had ever known about him in all the time I had been with him.

I didn’t think that visiting the house without him there would be any different than the previous times I had visited, but I was wrong. No longer did I see him play outside with my dad and brothers. No longer did I see him sitting in his recliner in front of the T.V. watching football. No longer did I see him sitting at the head of the table during dinner.

My parents and Nana came into my room one day where I was moping around. I recall them telling me that it was okay to be sad about Papaw and if I wanted to talk them about it I could. Being my stubborn self, I pretended like nothing was wrong and I was fine. Now I’m glad they told me that. It helped me realize that life wasn’t always going to be a happy place and it’s okay to not always be smiling.

As the years went on, I continued on with my life, Papaw still there in the back of my mind. It wasn’t till ninth grade that the emotions involving Papaw came back again. It was in English class and we had to write a poem based on Elie Wiesel’s “Never Shall I Forget” quote from his book, Night.

As I was writing the poem, I began to remember the tears and not just including mine. I remembered seeing Papaw’s new quietness at the funeral. I remembered anxiously sitting down, waiting for the ceremony to start.

Thankfully my Nana and my dad aren’t afraid to tell me stories of Papaw and the things he did. It makes me happy when I hear their tales of him because it brings me closer to Papaw as I learn more about him. In the words of Wiesel, never shall I forget that death. Never.