I dislike the word denial. It feels like some condescending therapist hanging his head over me and trying to ‘console’ me, if what they mean by ‘consoling’ is stuffing fluffy feathers into my ears. Perhaps being deaf, ignorant to the situation, would be better for me and my heart. Perhaps if I could just ignore the words written on the funeral websites, and hide under the bed from the truths clawing at my closet door, maybe it would quell the acidity rising in my chest. But there is no other way to deal with this, when I return to where he used to be, he will no longer be there. His chair will be empty; his light-hearted smile buried 6 feet under.
Death is never fair, is it?
Bill Vande Kopple died in a similar way to my grandfather. Cancer decidedly whisked away my English professor within the week of his diagnosis, with no care as to who it was taking. Cancer never does give us a choice, although, if we were given the choice in to who cancer lay siege, then this world would be a mess. It happened to my dog last year too, when my family and I were sitting at an Arby’s, a vet called us, telling us he was going into arrest, and asked if they should do compressions. Apparently, a few seconds after we said ‘no’ he died. My dog died alone in a kennel. My teacher died peacefully, in his bed, on July 3rd, 2013.
There’s another phrase I hate: ‘he went peacefully’. Sure, I love to hear that my professor did not die in pain. It’s great that he did not have to suffer, I get that. But it’s for the same reason I hate the thought of putting a dog to sleep, because it’s like they just were gone in a puff of smoke. My professor was not a puff of smoke; he was a fisher, a lover, a realist, a grammar-nazi, a comedian, an expert snow-ball fighter, a great professor, the adviser to my club… etc. Now what am I supposed to do with the Lord of The Rings book he gave me at the end of the year? Who am I going to discuss his book The Catch with? I could ask any English professor, but it’s not the same.
You could say I’m in denial. You may call me unfair to hate the way people say how death can be ‘peaceful’. I’d rather he would be alive right now.
That will be the end of my rant, and the beginning of what I saw in this man. He was more than a rascal whom all the teachers would smile about, swearing that they would keep an eye on him to keep him from trouble. He was more than the comedian who loved to tell fishing stories, and would easily uncover funny love stories about the other English professors. He was more than a man in glasses, someone who I stuffed snowballs down his coat (I admit, I’m a bit competitive), who chased after the girl’s team as best as he could, with that joyful smile transforming his face into a merry thing. He was a friend of mine, who I would visit, talk to, and a man to trust. He was a sun amidst a cramped English department hallway. He was the first of the Vande-duo. The list could go for miles. I could never write enough words for you to understand.
It makes me think of the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson that I read for English class first semester, how I remember being blown away by how long it was. In an already humongous English textbook, it filled a huge chunk of it. The reason it was so long though, was because Tennyson wrote the whole thing in remembrance of his friend, of the entire process he went through in mourning. You can feel his pain, his sorrow, his almost suicidal thoughts, until the end, when he can finally console himself. I can understand why there are so many words, so many stanzas, so many parts to that poem.
During his darkest times, when he missed his friend the most, a stanza or two was never enough. A paragraph was never enough to cover his death. A blog post was never enough to cover this death.
I wish I could write more than this, but this is all I can do.
When words are not enough
My heart wretches its songs
It twists in my chest
Why is forever so long?
God told me he’d hold us
But I feel I need justice
That life would feel so privileged
To take such a man away.
You were a smile in the sunlight
A sweet piney smell
A vacation amidst workload
Sir, you were a delight.
I could speak about you for miles
Yet never know my end
The measure would fall asunder
And I would left to weep.
I do not deny you are gone
But your shadow holds me close
A space where my heart bleeds
Now you’re only a memory.
Words are but temporary things.
They make war, peace, love
They destroy and create
Yet somehow, right now, words will never be enough.
I know I don’t usually post on Tuesdays, but I felt this was necessary… only found out yesterday.
I will still see you tomorrow. J