I’ve lost friends and family in my life too soon.

  • My mom’s best friend and one of my favorite people on earth to Lou Gehrig’s at 62.
  • One of my closest friends in 5th grade after a year-long battle with a brain tumor.
  • My best friend at 16 in a car accident.
  • My grandfather and young cousin to suicide. (Horrible and more horrible)
  • Friends that have lost their parents way too soon.
  • Friends and contemporaries (I’m only 36, my friends shouldn’t be dying) to heart ailments, sudden illnesses and the big C.

All death is horrible. Yet, some are more horrible than others.

Just over  a month ago, I attended a funeral for a 6-year-old girl horrifically gunned down in a senseless act along with 25 other amazing children and adults in an elementary school.

That was and still is the hardest death to take yet. And she wasn’t even my child. She was the grandchild of a friend, a fellow lawyer and golfing buddy. It is hard to find hope and healing while mourning over the small casket of a little girl who loved her teddy and the color pink.

That was tragic and heart-wrenching. It still is.

Now, this week, as I mourn the death of my grandfather, I am putting it all in this perspective. And I am also now for the first time in my life, looking at a death as not just impacting me, but also my children.

My grandfather was the most wonderful, gentle, witty, amazing man I have ever known and will ever know. I am beyond thankful that I see so much of him in my son, Dylan.

He was an amazing war hero who was the most humble about his journeys, triumphs and close calls. I am so incredibly grateful that he lived the life he did and that he created my family. I am so incredibly grateful that, even though we moved so far away from him when I was still little, that we had so much time with him.

He was 89 years old when he passed this week. I was heartbroken when I heard the news. I never wanted this day to come, but it had to. It was inevitable.

He had always been an energetic man. Even into his early 80s, he still wanted to tinker around (he was such a “tinkerer”) in his garage, just filing down a door that was sticking, playing with the sprinkler timer, trying to get the Model A up and running, driving the RV to Camp Pendleton to meet up with retired Navy friends, etc. He was about 80 when my grandmother had to chide him for climbing up on a ladder to fix something on the roof and just a few days later, caught him trying on rollerblades he found in the garage.

He had ailments. He had some heart surgeries, but he was always so full of vitality to me. So full of life.

He suffered from Parkinsons’ and later some dementia. Even as he became more immobile, when he would need help getting to the kitchen table, my grandmother needed to cut up the steak for him, but he never lost that clever, funny wit or that warm, and somewhat mischievous, sparkle in his eye.

The last few years of his life were hard. My grandmother didn’t want to accept outside help for care. She is a caretaker and would not have it any other way. It was hard seeing him bedridden, frail and losing the spark. He continued to light up when his family visited, but you knew that he wasn’t loving this part either. For almost three years, almost every time I spoke to my grandmother, I felt like she’s tell me he wasn’t doing well, but she’d find good news about how he’d eaten more that particular day. It was a long few years for them both.

I am not at all happy that he’s gone. And I am not really finding solace yet in his death. I’m beyond happy that he lived for as long and as well as he did. But I think my mother (and maybe even her mother and siblings) do find some relief. Some relief in that he is at final rest and peace.

The point in sharing this story is that all death is hard.

You honor your lost loved ones every time you think of them. I think of my lost friends and family members very, very frequently. Like, pretty much every day.

My grandpa’s burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery in DC. This will be the first death in the family that my boys are really cognizant of.  But they really didn’t know him very well, Dylan wouldn’t even remember meeting him. We lived on opposite sites of the country. So, to the boys, he really wasn’t an everyday part of their lives.

I want the boys to come to the service. We will probably make a little vacation out of it to bring the boys to DC and celebrate the life of my grandpa. Show them the things he showed me when I was with him in DC around the age of 10 or so.

I’m just so uncertain as to the questions or explanations that will come up from my boys and their cousins who may not really understand this yet.

Death is a funny (ironic) thing.

We never want it to happen, but we know it will.

We cannot imagine life moving forward afterwards, but it always does.

When someone dies suddenly in their 60s or 70s or even 80s, it’s emotional and tragic. We wanted to be with them longer. But yet, we don’t want them to suffer or have an uncomfortable or miserable quality of life if they “live too long.”

Every death is tragic. The younger the person, the more horrible it is. We feel immense pain when we lose a young person who has not yet had a life to lead. We cannot imagine burying a young child, whether due to cancer, gun violence or any other horrible tragedy. Young people should not ever die. But some do.

Teenagers should never die. But they do.

Parents should never outlive their children. But some do.

I feel like the last 6 weeks of my life have been rife with reminders of our mortality. I am close to the Sandy Hook tragedy, but I am not a parent of one of those little 20 angels and I am not a close family member of the 6 heroic adults.

Those deaths are unimaginable and the families are heartbroken. The community here is doing everything they can to share the love and support.

That tragedy is the worst face of death.

Losing my 89-year-old grandfather at the end of a somewhat storybook life and ending his pain is a better face of death. He did everything he wanted to do. He met and married his soul mate and they spent 68 years together. He flew amazing and exhilarating missions through 3 wars, met dignitaries and made history. He had 3 caring children who all gave him beautiful and loving grandchildren who he got to enjoy for many, many years. He had a great life.

We all want to think we and our loved ones will always, always be there. We don’t even want to face a day when they won’t. But we also know that, in our lives, we will have to find the strength to deal with loss.

I want my boys to have happy, innocent, carefree existences. But I want them to be able to cope and carry on when they will need to.

When my almost-6-year-old boy says things like “die”, “kill” or “death,” I cringe and want to really let him know how deep those words go. But he doesn’t know yet. He still has his innocence. Why should I break that too soon?

My dog (an Akita named Sam) lived with my parents for the better part of her life after I went gallivanting off to law school. Last year, Sam passed away and I waited until we were visiting my parents’ house before I told my son. I told him Sam went to heaven and wouldn’t be there anymore. He was good with that explanation and that was the end of it. I told him to ask me if he had any questions or wanted to know any more. Nope. That was it.

I’m waiting to talk more about this to the boys when we are close to the burial. I know Lo and I will talk about how we will handle the questions, if any.

I find a lot of solace in the fact that my grandfather, who was a career pilot and loved to fly, will now be free to do so again. Maybe that’s the best way I can express it to my boys.

I’m curious how others have handled the topic with their children.

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