Heads and Hearts

Posted on November 22, 2012 by Shackelford Funeral Directors under Uncategorized
Leave a comment

My parents had been told they would never have children, so the house they built in 1955 had two bedrooms – one for them and one for whatever guest might show up.  Imagine their surprise when a semi-permanent one (in the form of me) arrived in 1956, followed by my brother in 1959.  Given the arrangement of the house, he and I shared a room for the first several years of his life.  But the day came when that no longer seemed appropriate so the back porch disappeared, a new kitchen and den were added, and somewhere in all the construction, I was moved into what was once my parents’ bedroom.

To say this was a bit disconcerting would be an understatement.  I was accustomed to having company in my room, a thought that proved most comforting to someone as intensely afraid of the unknown as I was.  After all, once the lights went out, anything could be lurking in the dark, waiting until I drifted off to sleep to pounce upon me and do I didn’t know what.  My mind would never allow the final outcome of any pouncing to formulate.  So, where most children might have had a night light, I had a night lamp—and on some nights I even had a night overhead fixture.  As long as I could see, nothing could sneak up on me.

There were times when my parents insisted that I confront my fears and I would try so hard to please them.  I remember lying on my back in bed with the sheet pulled all the way up to my chin, trying desperately to make myself as flat as possible, thinking that if some stranger came into my room they would just see my head and go away, thinking that’s all there was—just a head … lying on a pillow—so pouncing would be an extraordinary waste of their time.  The reasoning may have been flawed, but it worked for my childish brain.  I believe this was about the same time I told the Seaton boys (our next door neighbors) that those white coverings over the top of the cells of a wasp nest were probably there because the baby wasps were chewing bubble gum.  You have to admit, it makes sense.  Creative explanations were my specialty.

As I’ve grown older my fears have changed somewhat, although the dark still rates in the top three.  If I’m walking down the hall of the funeral home at night—and I’m the only living one in the building—I  still find myself looking back over my shoulder, just in case … And although I’m okay with spiders and bugs and snakes, if anything jumps out at me, one of us is going to die.  Yes, my list could stretch on for a while, but the number one spot—the thing I fear most in this life—is death.  Not my own but the deaths of those I love.

You see, if I die, I’m not left behind to deal with the emptiness and the loss, the overwhelming ache that will not let go.  If I die there is an immediate finality to my part in the whole scheme of things, but if I am the one left behind I’m forced to endure and to persevere and to continue without someone that was a great part of my world.  Selfishness on my part demands that I be the first to go; love for those dear to me quietly whispers that I should be the one to stay.

Grief is a five letter word in more ways than one; it is an emotion I do not wish to experience but have, and which I know someday will haunt me again.  And when that day comes, I only hope I can live by my own “words of wisdom”—the ones I gave to my aunt when I first saw her after my uncle’s sudden death.  She wrapped her arms around me, pulled me close, and barely whispered, “What are we going to do?”  And I gave her the only response I had.  “The best we can.  It’s the only real choice we have.”

This post was written by Lisa Thomas, manager of Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *