I remember one time I was visiting her and her parakeet died while I was there. This was the first time I remember experiencing death. She found a large match box and filled it with with crumpled toilet paper and she had me place the bird inside. It was cold and rigid. We went out to the backyard and she had some kids my age from the block that she lived on meet us there. She gave me a shovel and had me dig a whole and we placed the matchbox with the bird in the ground. Then she asked me to pray. I did. And that was it. I think she gave a cookie to everybody who was there.
Another time when I was visiting, she told me that she didn't have any good food in the house for lunch and that there was a woman that died and if we put on nice clothes and went to the church where the funeral was being held, we could get some good food. She said she didn't know the woman but when we got into the service, I remember her crying (almost hysterically, kind of like she was acting) and that it was supposed to be a very somber scene but I had a hard time taking my Grandmother seriously. Later she told me that she was just crying so that people wouldn't think she didn't know the person who died. I remember seeing a table full of desserts and I got to eat my fill. It was yummy. Looking back, I think she did know the woman. She lived in a very small rural town.
The last thing my grandmother taught me about death was her own. I feel fortunate that I got to be with her when she died.
She and my grandfather moved in with us (my father, mother and myself) and had been living with us for a while. I really liked having them in our home. I was in my teens but not driving yet. One day, she fell and hurt herself. It seemed her health deteriorated rapidly that day. She spent the day in bed and my grandpa laid in bed with her. I was in there talking to her and she said, "It's my time to go. I need to make room for somebody who is being born." That was the last thing I remember her saying. Her funeral didn't stand out in my mind as much as what she taught me in these occurrences.
What did I learn from my grandmother?
1) I learned that death was just a matter of life. All things die, nothing lasts forever.
2) Funerals often come with some really good food. So don't avoid funerals. Death does have some benefits (for others).
3) And lastly, death needs to be faced head on, be prepared because you never know when your last day may arrive. But be nice about it. Make room for others who are coming after you. Your own death doesn't have to be a big show.
What have you learned about death and who were the people that taught you about death?