Friday, August 31, 2018

The First Time I Understood Death, 21 Years Ago Today

When I was growing up, I was extremely fortunate when it came to family members protecting me from the concept of death.  I never really made the connection with the idea of non-existence or pain when it came to death.  

In fact my great-grandpa Shaffer died at Christmas 1981 and sadly my great-grandma Shaffer died at Christmas almost exactly four years later in 1985.

My family didn't tell me this was the last time I would see them or why I wouldn't see them.  I just remember being told to "give grandma a hug, we need to go now."  In reality I was the only one to go as I was taken into the living room to watch TV cartoons and Christmas movies while the remainder of the family huddled in a small back room where grandma was, as she passed away.

Later, I just knew that I wouldn't see her anymore.  I missed her but there was no discussion, in front of me or to me, that she had 'died.'

With all the cases of death in my family as I was growing up I was never required to go to the funeral.  I just had a baby sitter while the remainder of the family gathered somewhere for the day, they kept the details from me.

Later, as I was older very few people in the family died.  I'd be asked if I wanted to go to the funeral and the advice I was given was to not go so that I would have pure happy memories of the times when they were well.  In many ways I'm glad they did that.

I'm not really complaining but it did make it so much harder on me when I had to finally face the concept of death and violent painful death at that, right in front of my face in the early morning hours of August 31, 1997.

I was stunned and shocked.  It was one of those horrible moments in history where it seems the world stands still and holds their collective breathe as the news is just too shocking to absorb.

As a human being we don't experience many of those moments in our life and it's probably good we don't.  For me I can remember the exact location I was when these things happened:

The Challenger Explosion
The beginning of Gulf War I
Diana's death
Election night '08
Election night '16

All of the above were moments when it just seemed time stopped.  I know people say that and if you don't understand, no I can't put it into words really, maybe a psychologist would know, but they are moments where the news either good or very bad just makes everything you are doing stop - instantly.  You think to yourself, 'this can't be happening, I'm not seeing this.'  Or, in the instance of '08 I thought, 'my God it's happened, a triumph, a milestone for the centuries, at least in our history.

Unfortunately, August 31, 1997, 21 years ago today it was pure pain and heartbreak I felt.  And, when I got up this morning and I saw her picture on my news feed, It all hit me again.

I guess those moments are so powerful that when you experience them and the anniversary mark of the event comes up, so do the emotions again.

So what I say now I say to you and the world, "none of us knew Diana personally but we knew of her soul and spirit and kindness that had no bounds.  And, still to this day it seems like the world was punished by having to go on without you.  Res In Peace our People's Princess.  We miss you and we'll continue to miss you until we all get to the place we are going and we can be reunited.

Fade to black.

Bryan W. Rupp