Six Minutes After My Grandfather’s Death

Six minutes ago I got a message from my father.

At the time, I had my imaginary chefs hat on while preparing breakfast for the dogs I was taking care of for the week. I swear, it takes more time to prepare their meals than my own.

I glanced down when I saw my phone light up.

“Panna left the planet last night. He is free. I’m on phone with Dan now.”

I went from Gordon Ramsey to Forrest Gump as I raced to feed the dogs.

As soon as I could get my hands free, I responded.

“He’s free” 

I didn’t know what else to say. 

I wanted to keep it positive so my dad didn’t think he just lost his father and his daughters mind in the same morning.

On my way down the stairs I left a voice memo to my friend, Lily, to update her on my ever changing, ridiculous life.

I then sent out a generic but sincere “I love you” text to my mom, dad, Uncle Dan, and sister, while I laid down on the couch. That’s where I am now, processing the last 10 minutes of my life.

I only got emotional towards the end of my voice memo to Lily, while thinking about what an incredible, funny, beautiful soul, just finished his time on Earth.

I’m surprised how I’m feeling, but it’s probably not why you think.

For years now, I was certain that at the news of my grandfathers inevitable passing, I would feel a certain type of way. Guilty.

Not the guilty feeling you get when you see someone has something in their teeth and you watch them walk away as your question your morals. I mean the guilt that stays with you for years.

Guilt for not calling more. Guilt for not making more of an effort to spend time with him. Guilt for not asking more questions about his extraordinary, inspiring life. Guilt, guilt, guilt.

So the fact that I don’t feel that emotion right now is beyond me. 

If I could describe how I’m feeling right now, the first thing that would come to mind is tired if I’m being completely honest.

I also feel annoyed, but that’s because of a boy. When are boys not annoying though? They have the emotional intelligence of one of the dogs I’m watching after, that eats its own shit, tries to swallow rocks, and bumps into walls. 72% serious. Maybe I just need to start talking to different men. That’s besides the point. 

The main feeling I have in regards to the passing of my grandfather is peace. Peace for his sake. He’s free, and I’m happy for him. His biggest fear was death, but I believe it to be a blessing for him. At 96 years old, he could only do so much more living. In fact, at that point it was more existing than living. 

I feel gratitude. He was such a cool dude (my grandfather, not the boy I’m annoyed with) and so many of my talents I give him credit for. He was a standup comedian, voiceover actor, and followed his passions while bringing joy and laughter constantly to those around him.

I hope to follow in his footsteps, not his posture. Too soon to be making jokes? I think he would have laughed.

Lastly I feel relief. Not only for him as I mentioned before, but for myself! I spent so much time abroad worrying about my grandfather leaving this planet and me being swamped with guilt.

How ironic that my last moments by his side, I sang to him “Guilty” by Billy Holiday.

I don’t feel guilt. I feel growth. 

I’ve come a long way. I know we all do the best we can and I am no exception to that. Yes, I wish I did do more with him, but there’s no point in feeling guilty. I’m worthy of feeling good and having a good life, guilt free, just as my grandfather would wish. So was he. So are you. 

I’m happy that I give myself permission to witness my grandfather transition with ease, not guilt.

Rest in Paradise Leo De Lyon. 

With love, always, 

Little Lyon 

Dear James

BC4D3798-4E67-4935-B757-8A304FF057F7Here I am, crying in a classroom closet while my students eat snack. Meanwhile, doing all I can to not snack myself into a coma to cope with the pain of knowing you’re gone. What about your plans to see me in Vietnam and travel more of the world together? What about your goals you talked to me about last week? 10 days ago to be exact. Not to be a creeper or anything, but I did just look back at our message history. Sorry, I swear I genuinely forgot to respond to your last message. The guilt is eating away at me. I know you’re not mad at me for that though, and I’m not mad at you for leaving too soon either.

How could I be mad at you? You’ve brought so much joy into my life. I have never met anyone else who I had such fluid, fun, banter with. We’ve shared so many unforgettable adventures. It sucks that we won’t make more together or reminisce about them on the phone again. Who’s going to make fun of me all the time now? Actually, I’m sure other people will, but never like you. No one was like you.

I am mad though. I’m mad I forgot to respond. I’m mad I didn’t check in more. I’m mad that such a good person had only a short time to spread their light. I am mad that your Go Pro camera is loaded with photos and videos of us that I’ll never be able to see and cherish.

So many people cherished you, James. Your energy lit up the room, even if  you were passed out on a bean bag chair in the corner after a long day of travels. Some of the most fond memories that I’ve ever had in my life were with you by my side. I think you knew that, but I wish I told you.

Now I’ll never figure out the spaghetti song we made up when we were drunk in Hoi An. I was counting on you to remind me and make me laugh like you always do… or did. Fuck James, this just doesn’t seem real or right.

Do you remember watching the lightning in Sapa? That was a magical night. Remember that time we almost died in Ninh Binh? We talked about it last month, so of course you do. That is, if you can hear me now… What about the first day we met? I would lose my debit card a million times if I knew it would result in me needing to beg strangers for money and miraculously meet someone as incredible as you again.

I can get on with people pretty easily, but you took me by surprise. It was like I knew you my whole life. You’re like a brother to me. Forever my soul family.

You’re too good of a dude to go so soon.

Rest in paradise James Maguire 21.11.1996 – 15.7.2020

 

His Death Taught Me How To Live

A2F3ED6F-6D73-492E-8056-26375809F6A4It was the Summer of 2011, and I had just turned 20. I totally dated myself, but I was trying to set the mood. My friend was having a big Fourth of July party in Ohio, her hometown. I flew out for the occasion, and to spend the week with her during summer break. I had no idea I’d also be spending the week with someone else who would change the way I lived my life.

My friend invited others over one night to hangout, smoke weed, drink, and do all of the typical college kid shenanigans. One by one, her friends started to arrive. I heard a knock at the door, and that’s where this all began.

He was wearing an eye-catching red shirt, but that’s not what caught my eye. That gorgeous face, beautiful blonde hair, stunning smile, the 6ft something hunk who looked like he just stepped off the runway. That’s what I noticed. He was shy and soft spoken like he didn’t own a mirror.

I don’t even remember our first conversation. Fast forward into the night, and we were sitting alone on the rooftop, stargazing while talking about life. I felt it coming. A peaceful moment of silence as I saw the twinkles of the stars reflect in his hazel green eyes. He leaned in for a kiss. It felt like I just reached the flag pole on an epic level of Super Mario Brothers after trying to win all day. Success.

He lost his virginity to me that night. We laughed, talked, and cuddled until the sun had risen and the birds began to chirp. We spent several more fun filled days together until my time in Ohio was up. This is where it starts to get complicated.

For over a month, we texted everyday. Sometimes FaceTime. At the end of the summer, we made plans for me to fly out one more time to see him before the new school year began. Once I booked the ticket, the talking became less frequent, and I felt us becoming distant. Still, with my head in the clouds, I got on the flight.

It wasn’t the same. Some silences were awkward, and there were feelings of detachment on both ends. Still, we made the best of it.

With school approaching, I went back to pack. We may have had one or two more brief conversations before I found out he blocked me. You read that right. Not ghosted, blocked. I was livid, hurt, and genuinely shocked. Worst of all, that was the Summer “Now You’re Just Somebody That I Used to Know” became a #1 hit, and I wanted to puke every time it came on the radio.

I’m not some crazy psycho bitch. There were genuinely no arguments had, or obvious reasons at the time, as to why he would’ve blocked me with no explanation. My less evolved 20 year old self decided to send him a Facebook message. I spewed all my sadness and anger towards him. Ending with, “Pathetic dude.”

Three years go by with no contact. Three years go by and my friend from Ohio, now living in Manhattan as well, called me one morning while I was in my apartment. She told me he, the guy from my never forgotten Summer romance, was found dead the night before in his NYC apartment just a 15 minute walk away from me. She asked if I could help her clear out his apartment, as she’d been a friend of his and his family all of her life.

I was speechless. I was overcome with feelings of guilt knowing that the last words I said was “Pathetic dude.” I even used to think about reaching out to make amends from time to time before my ego would get in the way. Obviously my time to reach out, ran out. Yes, there are some other relationships in my life that have not ended perfectly, but for the most part, there has been some type of closure and I’ve made peace with it. The way that ended, I hadn’t come to terms with. 

His death taught me how to live. It taught me that I should never leave a relationship unsettled. It showed me that I need to make peace with what is, and if I have a hard time doing that, it’s up to me to find a way to solve it. I hope I can inspire, even if it’s just one person, to make peace with the way your relationships have unfolded, or are unfolding, and learn from them. You never know how much time you or someone you know has, so all we can do is learn to make the best of it.