Today: Feb 24, 2024

Recalling memories about those who have passed

Shaunna Cullen – Staff Writer

When my grandmother passed away this semester, I was pretty surprised. Yes she was old, 85-years-old, and yes she was sick. She had been sick for a few years now. Even years ago when my parents told me to make sure to go see Grandma because we don’t know how much time we would have with her, I would think to myself, “This again?”

She was always a fighter. She made it through her illnesses but really never fully recovered; her last few years she needed an oxygen tank and a walker, on some days even a wheel chair too.

I can’t say I have any regrets about not seeing my grandmother enough. About three weeks before she passed, I surprised her and showed up at her house one day with sunflowers. She used to have a really well-kept garden when she was able to care for one, so flowers meant a lot to her. She was so happy my dad told me she was telling everyone what a wonderful granddaughter I was.

There are a lot of things you learn about someone when they pass away. One thing I learned about my Grandmother is she kept everything. I found an invitation to my birthday party from when I was four-years-old when we were cleaning out her house. She had musical records from the 1940s that probably haven’t been played in 50 years. These kinds of things you find tell you a lot about a person.

But, going through someone’s things when they pass is hard because it’s personal. At first I didn’t want anything but a sweater that smelled like her. For my Grandmother always smelled like Chanel No. 5.  Slowly I acquired some things that reminded me of her: blankets, jewelry, books and movies.

Just when I was accepting my Grandmothers passing, another death struck our family. My dad’s best friend passed away from his long seven-year battle with cancer. Some people looked at me funny when I told them my dad’s best friend passed away because they think, “Why should you be sad? He wasn’t your best friend.”

Photo Courtesy | Shaunna Cullen
Cullen’s grandmother, Mary B. Cullen, pictured during the 1950s.

James Hall was like my uncle. In fact, I didn’t know Uncle Jim wasn’t my uncle until his daughter told me one day, “You know, we’re not real cousins. Our dads are just best friends.” His family welcomed me to their home anytime and I could stay as long as I wanted.

I think the hardest part of Uncle Jim’s passing was that (as his daughter said) he died a long time ago with his cancer diagnosis. I know many people who have had family members with cancer and they will tell you that the person was no longer the same after all the medication and they just were always plain exhausted.

I like to remember him the way he was before the cancer, always funny and he always had something fun for his daughter and I to do when he was able to be home. I was never ever bored at the Hall residence. Whether it was a magic show, a yoga class or a trip to the pool, there was always something to do and fun was never in short supply.

I think the most important thing to do when someone passes away is to give yourself time to grieve. We live in a society that is moving so fast, it doesn’t have time to stop for you. You need to take time to get things in order, and that includes yourself. So if you miss that assignment that was due Monday, it’s all right, you have to prioritize. There are things that are more important in life than a 4.0 GPA.

 

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