There are certain sounds one associates with life events. At a birthday party, you can confidently expect to hear the ‘Happy Birthday’ song. Go to a wedding and it’s a safe bet you’ll hear ‘Here Comes The Bride’ aka ‘Bridal Chorus’ or perhaps ‘Canon in D’. Attend your favorite team’s game and chances are you’ll hear their fight song. What do you hear when you think of death? Do you hear silence? Crying? Spooky organ music? You may hear these things, but I think the things you hear the most will surprise you.
I’ll apologize for the morbidness of this post, following another post with the subject of death… although my WOD recap was much lighter hearted. I was inspired to write this post as I was writing my last one. I was listening to iTunes when a certain favorite song came on that always reminds me of my late grandparents. I started thinking about them and then realized it had been over three years since my grandfather passed away.
Please, allow me to digress for a moment…
I wasn’t “close” to my grandparents in the typical southern way. I lived roughly 9 hours away from them. But my grandpa… man I loved him. I always looked forward to him and grandma coming to visit because he played Nintendo and was, in my youthful eyes, a Nintendo master. Seriously. He was retired so I think some days he just stayed at home and put in 8 hours of work on the NES. Yes, old school 8-bit NES. And he would teach me all his tips and tricks and leave me the games he had already beat so I could play them. I loved it.
My grandpa is my hero for a lot of reasons besides just Nintendo, but I’ll leave it at that. He died in October of 2011. That is over three years ago. That means over 1000 days have gone by without him. Wow. That blew my mind. I think about things like a 21 day clean eating challenge or No Shave November (30 days) and those time frames seem so damn long. But over 1000 days since his passing? That is just insane.
To digress just a little further… it has been just over 2000 days since Corporal Ryan McGhee was killed in action. Ryan’s birthday was on 11/4. My CrossFit box did the McGhee WOD in his honor. (In fact, it was announced that we will do McGhee at least twice a year, on his birthday 11/4 and on his death day, 5/13.) We celebrated his life, because he had died. If Ryan hadn’t made the ultimate sacrifice, he’d just be a dude like you and me.
We celebrated his death through life. Life is a struggle, and we kept his struggle in mind as we did the 30 minute WOD. I wanted to push myself and am proud to say I completed the WOD Rx for the first time, making it through 12 rounds and 2 push-ups. So, in thinking about McGhee’s death, we celebrated his birthday (life) and it sounded like deadlifts dropping to the floor and feet landing on wooden boxes and grunts and gasps for air. We suffered, we experienced life, and we came out of it for the better. I heard no crying; I heard life.
Back to my grandpa, he served overseas in World War II. Grandpa was in the US Army and received military honors at his burial. Let me say this, no amount of watching military services on TV or at the movies will prepare you for what you see and hear in person for a loved one. I had held it together pretty well during the church service and during the graveside ceremony.
I lost it once Taps began.
A member of the Honor Guard hit those beginning three notes and then the first volley of gunfire cracked through the air. My eyes went from relatively dry to leaking hot tears down my cheeks.
It wasn’t until the bugle went silent and the echoes of the guns stopped ringing off the hills that I began to calm myself. I watched as they folded Grandpa’s flag and presented it to my mom. I gathered some of the spent rifle cartridges to remind me of that massively intense moment.
But, that’s not the sound I think of most when I think of my grandpa’s death.
I think of these 4 older church members from Grandpa’s church that came to his receiving of friends and sang/chanted some religious melodies. I don’t recall the songs; what I recall is the humor of these 4 elderly people arguing amongst themselves and the priest that was officiating the service. They started singing different songs and one lady was practically yelling at one of the men that he was wrong and was trying to show him where to begin singing. Haha! I know I can’t adequately paint the humor of that picture, but it was simply hilarious, and it was much needed during such a somber occasion. Yes, I do think about my crying and that bugle and those guns, but I think about the laughter of that random event. And then, I think about Grandpa’s laugh. His laugh of life.
Of course, I can’t think about Grandpa without thinking of Grandma. She proceeded him in death by about 2 years. Grandma had an even more distinct laugh than Grandpa did. (I have a thing about remembering people’s laughs..)
Grandma had this thing when she would go over a speed bump in a car, she would emit this slight grunt. Every time a bump in the road, she would make that noise. Every time she would, it was funny.
My family was riding in the limo in front of the hearse on the way to the grave sight to lay my grandmother to rest when we went over a speed bump. I smiled to myself and voiced the source of my humor… I announced that if Grandma was riding with us, she would’ve gone “ummph” over the speed bump. And you know what? She was riding with us! We laughed because we could hear Grandma, clear as day, emit her bump grunt as we made our way to say our final goodbyes. That’s the sound I think of when I ponder my grandmother’s passing… her soft grunt from bumps in the road.
Why did I share all this with you? Well, one, because I was thinking about it. Because when we think about death, it’s generally in a sad light, because someone we loved is gone. Death sounds don’t have to be the shrieks of a haunted house or the screams from a horror movie. Death doesn’t have to be machine gun fire or crying at the coffin. Death doesn’t have to sound like… death. Death can sound like life. Celebrate their life as you mourn their death. What could be more lifelike than laughter? What could be more healing than sharing a laugh with the ones you love? Take a minute and meditate on someone you have lost. Close your eyes and LISTEN to them. Treasure that. Those memories are worth more than any inheritance you could ever receive.
Thank you for letting me Think Out Loud.
Your turn -> What’s a sound that means the world to you?