On May 14, 2011, my grandfather woke up, took a shower, put on a suit, shaved, walked out to his shed that he had turned into a club house and put a gun in his mouth.
It was 6 am and the single gunshot woke up the neighbors. An hour later, I received a phone call from my mother.
She told me to call out of work, that there was an accident with my pop pop. I knew it wasn’t an accident.
My grandfather was 84 when he decided it was his time to leave. He didn’t let nature dictate his course.
He was the only father figure I had ever known, and he had told me throughout the years that if a man can’t take care of himself, he is no longer a man.
He said if he was ever rendered dependent, he would pull a gun.
And he did.
At 17, this event completely shaped my thought process and the way I perceived the world.
Despite its brutal tragedy, I learned so much from this man’s beautiful life and his death:
1. Suicide Doesn’t Make You A Coward
There is a common belief that suicide is taking the easy way out, or even that it is a long-term solution to a short-term problem.
While these may be used as social deterrents to ward people away from looking at it romantically, my grandfather was no coward.
He lived an entire lifetime, and his old age and hard life was beginning to hinder him. How can you be a coward and decide to end your very existence?
Every single fragment of your self is fighting to live and you overcome all of this? I’m not encouraging suicide to anyone, but I learned at that moment, suicide is not a coward’s move.
2. It’s Okay To Cry
By the time my mother picked me up from my house, my grandfather was already taken out in a stretcher. He was still alive. Well, his body was.
At 84 years old and with a bullet wound in his brain, his heart still fought on. We arrived at the hospital alongside our family and friends.
Everyone was horrified, but no one was surprised. Before we even entered the room, I pulled my little brother aside and told him to not cry. Whatever he did, don’t cry.
I told him that the two of us needed to be rocks for the women in our family. I was foolish then.
As we walked in, we stood beside my grandmother and held my grandfather's hands. His face was covered in gauze and his hands were so cold.
As we stood there, his heart still rocked forward. A terrible sound broke the silence; it was somewhere between a cry and a scream. It was the sound of a soul breaking and it belonged to my little brother. We all wept then.
3. Memories Make Loved Ones Immortal
He’s been gone four years, but my memories of him will live on forever.
I remember him playing songs on his Bic lighter, which he’d place against his false teeth and tap beats. I remember working in his garden beside him, picking tomatoes as the sun beat down on our backs.
It feels like it's been so long, but I still stop by my grandmother’s house expecting to see his red pick-up truck and him sitting on the porch smoking a cigarette.
Memories are eternal.
4. The Sun Still Shines
My grandfather’s heart continued to beat until the moment his eldest daughter entered the room. It was then that his body finally gave out. We continued to hold on.
When we were told to leave the room, we walked from the hospital room and the sun broke through the windows. It was one of the sunniest days I can remember.
I was furious. How could it be sunny and beautiful out when such a terrible thing just happened?
Life is a crazy roller coaster ride with ups and downs. There is the chugging anticipation of reaching the top and then the sudden drop.
Sometimes it's slow and sometimes it's fast, but it is never anticipated. But, the sun still shines no matter where the roller coaster ride of life brings you.