“Death is everybody’s neighbor,” my grandmother used to say.  Wizened by wrinkles from my unborn era, she was everybody’s grandma, until she passed away.  Us kids never knew quite what that meant, and when we would inquire she would say “It’s impossible to breathe the breath after your last, and when the wind blows past, it’s a reminder that the torch of life we’ve been given must sooner or later be passed.”

I remember how she would rock on the porch- cradled ever so gently in grandpa’s arms… You see- grandma was paralyzed from the waist down.  My grandfather carried her around with nothing less than endless waves of love and an outstretched smile- their love was unity and nothing could come between.  When she would sleep, my grandfather would take me out to the porch swing and unravel some of the universe’s mysteries as I sat attentively upon his knee.  “Son” he would say – for that is what he called every boy he knew – “Do you believe?”  Always would he ask that question.  And my reply would be the same.  “Believe in what grandpa?”

And he would turn those old, sharp eyes upon me, looking into me through the lens of destiny and say “Whatever it is you are afraid to believe is true.”  And we would rock… and I would ponder… sometimes I would think so hard that I would grow weary and rest my head upon his chest… lulled to sleep by his precious heartbeat…

I did not know how to believe in what I feared was true… It seemed to be rhetoric of a circular design… Surely if I believed the opposite of everything that would make me a fool? … But yet and still I knew there was something deeper my grandfather had in mind…

And the day my grandma died, my grandpa bared his mind… Strong voice as the paved lane for his silent cry… the closing remarks to his eulogy were a path of endless light…

“To be strong, we must allow our strength to be silent; To be humble, our humility must be made to be quiet; Death is not the end of life, but rather the transformation of it for that is what life is- a series of transitive transformations… To miss the familiar soul, is to be human- to embrace life on a higher degree because of it is reverence… How heartless would it be to drag the memory of one loved into the casket of our personal grief… Death is everybody’s neighbor- so live in such a way that you need not fear him coming to knock on your door.”

Not long after, that unfriendly neighbor came knocking on my grandfather’s door… I had no words of elegance so I repeated his, and his spirit of wisdom washed over everybody present… When I went away from there I suddenly understood why he had spent my whole life impressing upon me that one lesson… I could hear his voice riding the tides of reminiscence down from Heaven… “Son- do you believe?”

I’m thinking… Realizing… Dreaming… Only I know what I need to believe in- what he was asking was, did I have the courage to believe it?

… And so I’m on this porch breathing my grandfather’s air… Rocking my life away to the cadence of his failed heartbeat… Remembering things I’ve never known… Remembering things better off forgotten…

Waiting… In silence…

“Death is everybody’s neighbor,” grandma used to say…

And my grandfather would respond “But life comes in the quiet.”


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