Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 months ago, my wife and I bought a house.
After living in sometimes-bedroom-less-apartments, with family, and my grandfather’s cavernously empty house for the better part of a year*, we finally took the plunge.
(*NOTE: if you’re into 2-story, 50-year-old, pink brink tudors, let just say I know a guy.)
Now, because we’re a bit short on time, allow me to go ahead and pre-empt some of your inevitable queries regarding my aforementioned home purchase:
“Yes, I did watch AT LEAST 37 episodes of house hunters before starting the process, and WHY CAN’T THEY EVER LOOK PAST PAINT COLOR!!!!??? (I miss you Liz Lemon).”
“No, my wish list did not include granite countertops, something people kept calling “a structurally sound garage”, or a master on the main, and yet, against all odds, we have survived.”
“Yes, I plan on live-tweeting any renovation project we undertake, if only to endlessly complain about the VERY REAL STRUGGLES facing middle-class white people, and the sleepless nights accompanying our decisions about kitchen back-splashes. #stillblessed”
I must say, one of my favorite things about our house is its location BECAUSE YOU CAN LITERALLY WALK TO KRISPY KREME, SONIC, AND CHICK FIL-A, MY LIFE IS A DREAM. Normally, for this kind of position you’d have to live in a camper on the edge of a Hobby Lobby parking lot, but thanks to suburban sprawl, the strip malls now come to us.
However, no matter which fast-food mecca you find yourself pilgrimaging towards, you must first pass the neighborhood mortuary and its parking lot filled with sensible Buicks ominously guarding the entrance to our street.
Honestly, very few things invite existential crises and contemplations on human mortality quite like traversing the yard in front of a funeral home on the way to eating a fried chicken sandwich combo meal. WILL THERE BE POLYNESIAN SAUCE IN THE GREAT BEYOND, AND IF SO, CAN WE TAKE AN EXTRA SAUCE PACK FOR LATER? THIS IS WHY I BECAME A PASTOR, ANSWER ME GOD!
So, when my great aunt died last weekend, I discovered I’m quite practiced at assuaging the ballooning pain in my chest with the typical psychological remedies employed in situations such as these:
she didn’t suffer.
it was her time.
she’s in a better place, with family and friends she missed dearly.
I get this.
Her death wasn’t unordinary, unexpected, or outside the normal rhythm of what it means to be human.
Especially when they’re 90, and struggling to recover from a stroke. She wasn’t a child, or a mother, or a soldier. She wasn’t involved in a sudden catastrophe or car accident. She was attempting to relearn things like brushing her teeth and refusing the salt in her oatmeal-all the while “living” in a place where an alarm sounds every time she attempted to exit her bed, solo.
Her death didn’t rend sackcloths, incite wailing in the streets, or erect crosses under freeway overpasses. It was quiet, unassuming, and produced that odd cocktail of relief, sadness, and guilt for those she left behind.
Still, for all intents and purposes, she was my grandmother. She picked me up from school. She didn’t ask questions when, at the sight of a couple of girls from my 6th grade class, I pretended not to be “with her” at the mall.
Oh, and she got a fresh permanent every Thursday.
Until last year she lived alone, drove her mint-condition Chevy Lumina to the grocery store, and un-ironically referred to wasps (the bugs not the Protestants) as “waspers”. She never wrote a book, ran for office, attended college, nor googled anything, ever.
But, that never mattered too awful much to a lonely, acne-prone, and mostly self-unassured middle schooler, and it matters even less, now.
I loved her, but in some ways only because I learned it from her, first.
And, even though I cognitively understand why she’s no longer discreetly slipping me fifteen dollars cash to cover gas, her death-much like that hearse I pass on the way to Sonic happy hour-still gives me pause about my own.
In short, I know why we die, why things quit working, why stuff wears out, but, in all honesty I’m still trying to figure out why we live, why some of us are still breathing, why others aren’t, and what we’re supposed to do with it until it’s finally taken away.
In the meantime, I hope that whenever I find myself on the other side of existence, someone will remember me and my endless quirks fondly over tear-stained spinach-queso
like I did for her.
Photo Credit: Eric Minton
To read more from Eric Minton at his blog.