Elizabeth Nord Photography » Everyone has a story. Let me tell yours.

Losing a Loved One

Let’s see if I can get through this one without crying….  Nope. Here come the water works.

I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to write such a personal (and kind of dark, sorry guys) post today.  I have sat here thinking and thinking and I’ve come up with two things.  1. I just had a friend say goodbye to her grandmother 2. In 8 days, we would be celebrating my granddad’s birthday.  But anyway…I just wanted to share some personal, happy, and sad memories with you today.  No one may read this, and that’s okay with me.  I feel like writing these stories down can be healing…whether it’s just for my sake or for someone else who may be going through the same thing.  If you are going through pain, just know you’re not alone in this world.  Cling to your family and friends for support.  Write down your feelings and your memories, because some day they may be gone.  Take photos of your loved ones, because they’re not going to be around forever.

At a young age, I experienced death and felt the pain of losing a close relative.  It surprises me to meet people at my age now who have never had a relative or close friend pass away.  I just can’t understand how it feels to not have these experiences already, to not know how it feels when you wake up the next morning to realize it wasn’t just a dream, that they’re really gone.

 

Rides home from Logan’s Steakhouse, tickle fights, sleeping next with my aunt in her bedroom, and huge smiles.  These are the things that remind me of my aunt Denise.

At the age of 6, I lost my amazing aunt (she was 24) to a car crash.  This shook the entire family.  I can still remember my dad (30 at the time) coming home in tears and me not understanding why he was crying so much.  I still remember when mom and dad sat my sister and I down in our bedroom to tell us our aunt Denise had an accident.  What do you mean? We just saw her the other day.  I’m confused.  I understand…I think. But I’m confused. She’s so young. How could this happen to her? I thought only old people died?

 

Ballerinas, blue lips, Disney World, princesses, and strawberries.  These are the things that remind me of my little cousin, Lily.

When I was in high school, I lost my 5 year old cousin, Lily.  We all knew it was coming.  She was born at only 2 lbs and 2 oz and with a deformed lung.  We weren’t even sure if she’d ever come home, but she did!  She was quite a miracle baby.  It took nearly a year for her to sit up and even longer for her to be able to walk.  Gosh, she was a cutie.  Her smile just radiated when she walked into the room.  She was always so full of life and wonder.  So eager to learn how to do things, to make friends, and to be a big girl.  She loved to dance.  Ballet especially.  I remember her in her pink ballerina tutu more often than not.  I had just gotten back from Destin, FL the day she took her last breath.  The doctors had said they did everything they could and for her to just go home to be with family.  I remember when my aunt called my mom to give her the news. I JUST saw her.  Literally JUST saw her with my family that day.  We were driving on our way back home from my cousin’s house when she said “You need to turn around and come back.”

 

Yard sales, a purple dancing outfit, TV dinners, chunky white nursing shoes, and homemade Lemon Ice Box pies made just for me.  These are the things that remind me of my grandma, Dorothy.

Her last few years were spent in and out of the hospital.  She smoked since she was 17 years old and had so many things wrong with her poor fragile body.  Her last year, she had to have both of her legs removed due to gangrene which I think was particially from her diabetes.  I have so many amazing memories with my grandmother.  She was one of my favorite people in the entire world.  This woman was known for her awesome cooking and one thing was guaranteed: you would never be hungry at grandma’s house!  She constantly stocked up TV dinners that she knew we liked and she would always bake a lemon ice box pie for when I came to visit.  She knew how much I loved those things.  I remember when he was still living at home, in a wheel chair, still trying to make those things for me.  Bless her heart.  She knew how to make “her angel” feel loved.  She always called me that.  She also used to always brag at EVERY hospital and in front of EVERY nurse or doctor.  She’d point to me and say, “This right here is my oldest granddaughter.  She was #1 and I got the first kiss!  As soon as the doctor brought her out, I leaned over and gave her the first kiss she’d ever had!” It was always something she had done, so I just smiled.  I never knew how special that memory would be to me until she passed away a few years ago.

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Sharing a bowl of freshly popped popcorn, Santa Claus kisses, watching the news, and after school Burger King trips.  These are the things that remind me of my granddaddy, Big Bennie.

This was the most recent death in our family.  I got a phone call from my sister telling me that grandad collapsed and that he was in the ambulance.  She was telling me that mom thought it was a heart attack and be to prepared.  I was in such denial.  I was 100% positive in my mind…he’ll be fine.  I’m not worried.  But then I got the call that he passed away.  I hung up the phone, still in shock and denial.  I couldn’t cry, I felt like I should be, but nothing was happening.  I was living in Knoxville, TN at the time and I think just because I was so far away and I wasn’t in the middle of it all, that it just hadn’t hit me yet.  I drove home for the funeral and I don’t think it hit me until I saw my dad and his brother shaking everyone’s hands and crying.  A grown man crying always gets me.  I’ve only seen my dad cry maybe a handful of times…at his sister’s funeral, on my wedding day, and at his dad’s funeral.  I’m sure he’s cried more but these moments are forever engraved on my brain.  Still in denial, I drove back to Knoxville to continue my every day life.  I went to a Tennessee basketball game that weekend with my husband and some of his buddies.  They were giving out free popcorn in the box seats where we happened to be sitting for that game and it finally hit me.  The smell, taste, and look of popcorn just set me into a puddle of tears that wouldn’t stop.  I know I probably looked like a crazy person to everyone around me.  I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom to wash my face and settle down.  At that moment, I knew that I missed him and that is was real.  Crazy how these feelings can either happen immediately, at the funeral, or a week or even more sometimes after the fact.

 

I think more than anything, I just wanted to be strong.  Honestly, I thought (and hoped) I would be immune to this pain by now, but I’m not.  It always hurts. Every stinking time.  Car accidents, suck.  Childhood diseases, suck.  Cancer, diabetes, old age…it sucks.  Heart attacks, suck.  Pain and suffering, sucks. But you know what? I believe that it’s a necessary evil; something that we must all go through to become stronger, more caring, and wiser people.  And for that I thank God.  Yep, I thank God for pain and for the ability to feel as deeply as I do for people, because I know that I learn something from each time it happens.  Because of pain and sorrow, I can help others that are struggling with pain and with the loss of a friend or family member.  It brings people together and reminds us of how precious each one of our lives are.

One thing that helps me through all of this is knowing that they’re no longer in pain and that I will see them again one day.  I believe in God.  I believe in heaven and a place where there are no tears, no pain, and no suffering.  I believe that I will be there one day, reunited with my friends and family.  I believe that I will get to hug and worship my God.  That is what gets me through this pain.

Memories fade.  Sometimes, I begin to forget what my aunt looked like or what the sound of my grandma’s voice sounded like.  I forget the way Lily’s hand felt when she touched mine and I forget how granddad’s prickly white beard felt against my cheek.  Now, some of these feelings you can’t ever get back and memories are all we’ll ever have, but some of these things we can hold on to.  Take photos and take videos of your loved ones. Document important times in their lives and try to preserve the moments that are easily forgotten.  Above all though, spend time with them.  Slow down and enjoy life with your favorites.  Don’t be afraid to share your feelings and to let them know how much you love them.  Photos, videos, and memories won’t ever take the place of them, but it sure is nice to look back on.

I miss you guys so much. Every single day.

 

Annnnd now that I’ve balled my eyes out and if you were so sweet enough to read through this entire post… you deserve a smile and a photo of a cute pup. So here it is! Sweet baby puppy, Molly! 🙂

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Alinee McGee

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