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Opinion

Death in the family a humbling experience

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February 11, 2016

For those who consider themselves part of the music community, 2016 has not been off to a great start. Since the start of the new year, music fans have had to say goodbye to the likes of David Bowie, Natalie Cole and Glen Frey, just to name a few. As a music enthusiast myself, the loss of so many talented artists has brought me sadness and disappointment. The artists that helped shape my music tastes, my outlook on life and my love of culture, are now gone and will never be heard from again. Until recently however, I didn’t completely understand what it meant to die. I had my notions and I had been to several funerals in the past but I wasn’t remotely aware of what it really was. I didn’t conceptualize it until death hit home for the first time with the passing of my grandfather, Larry.

Now, before I go any further, I must say that I don’t know everything about death and what I’m about to say is not a one size fits all column. Death and grieving happen in many different ways and my experience may only be true to some. That said, I feel that what I write here is an interesting perspective that we all could find beneficial in some way. There were three major things that stood out to me during the final hours of my grandfather’s life and after some reflection; I wish that I had realized them sooner.

Like all of the subsequent realizations, the first one is simple. Death is a time to come together and let bygones be bygones. Like almost every family, my family is not perfect and sometimes we don’t all get along. With a very large family, it is very hard to always see eye to eye. But upon reaching the hospital on the day we were instructed to say our goodbyes, there was an obvious change. Family members who once had a heated past were laughing together and talking in peace. Family members who had not seen each other for extended periods of time were chatting and picking up where they left off. Though the occasion was still grim, the reunions and truces being made brought a joy to the air that had almost been forgotten.

Near the end of my grandfather’s life, things were not always easy. With the challenges of aging comes heartbreak and confusion. This flux of feelings often caused regrettable moments on both sides of the argument. But in the final moments of life for my grandfather, none of that mattered. As words fell out of the mouth of family members, the air was filled with memories and laughs about the good times and the precious moments that could never be replaced. All of this brought me to my next simple realization that in the end, absolutely nothing matters besides the important stuff. When my grandfather took his last breath, it felt like a wave had washed off all of the troubles and left only the happy times.

The final realization is more of a combination of the first two along with several smaller realizations. As I sat by the bedside of my grandfather during the earliest hours of the morning, I talked with the hospital’s chaplain about my grandfather’s life. As he asked questions and I answered, I realized something very important about the culmination of life: death is a beautiful thing if you do it right. If you look at the brass tax of this thing we call life, you realize that, well, we’re all dying. But if you take the time now to create connections, make lasting and meaningful memories, you’ll hopefully go the right way; surrounded by family, friends and most importantly, peace. When those come together in such a delicate moment like death, it can only be beautiful.

Matthew Clark is a junior journalism student. Besides being the music director at WRFW and the circulation manager at the Student Voice, Clark has become an accomplished musician, performing with the likes of Chicago and Daughtry. He has also contributed to a few movie soundtracks.