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Berdine's Corner

Death at a Funeral

by Kenney Dennard

berdine dennard
Berdine Dillard Dennard

Life Lessons from a Matriarch

by Kenney Dennard
Dealing with death is one of the hardest things in life that we must face. It's not a one, two, three step process. It's a process that can take many years to mentally get over. That’s dangerous. You'll hear people say many times that "A part of me died when____ died." I know from experience that this is true.

When my mother, Berdine Dennard passed in Oct 2008, I really feel that a part of me died. What made me cry the most was when it really hit me that I would never see her again in this lifetime. That may seem strange, but right after her death it’s almost like my mind was in disbelief. You know she's gone but you are preoccupied with thinking about the funeral and the burial and all the things that go along with it. No matter what, you know this is the last show for your dearly departed and you want everything to go right.

It was about two or three weeks later that it really hit me. One day I was at work and something happened that I would have loved to have a conversation with my mom about. My first thought was, "I can't wait to call my mom and tell her." Then as soon as that thought hit me, I thought, "Wow. I don't have her to tell anymore. The folk that I do have wouldn't even be interested." Then a quick thought came to me. "I can't wait until things get back to normal." Just as soon as I thought that, I thought, "This is normal. This is the new normal." Then I burst out crying. I cried harder than I had cried before. At work.
For the next few years I hated life. I hated the new normal. A part of me had died.

Many people are unfamiliar with this process. For a long time I was one of them.

I lost my grandmother, Annie Kate Denson at a young age. I was 12. I remember her but I don't have a whole lot of found memories of her because I was so young. The next time I experienced death to that magnitude was losing my other grandmother, Ethel Mae Dillard. I was 34. So for that wide range in my life, from 12 to 34, I hadn't lost anyone close to me. Then, only 4 years after losing that grandmother, I lost my mother. Only a few months later I lost my favorite uncle, David Lee Dillard.

Naturally, my moms death hurt me more than anything, although those three deaths within a 4 year period really hurt. What stunned me more than anything was people that tried to tell me they knew exactly how I felt. I had a friend to call me on the phone and tell me she just wanted me to know that she felt my pain. She said, "I know how you feel. I lost my niece a few months ago." Then I had a homeboy to tell me, "Man I know exactly how you feel. My grandaddy died two years ago."

"I know how you feel" is a phrase I think should stay out of your mouth at a time when someone is grieving. Because you really don't have a clue what someone is feeling. There is no way losing a niece or even a grandfather can be relatable to losing a mother.

Another phrase often repeated is, "Let me know if there's something I can do." My mind would quickly think, "Can you bring her back? Then there's nothing you can do." But they are really just trying to be nice, and I did understand that. It can be irritating though by the time the 10th or 11th person says that same thing.

The best way you can help anyone that's grieving after the death of a loved one is to silently be there. You should definitely reach out. But only when and if the mourners are willing to talk. Everyone is not the same. People deal with death in totally different ways. Personally, I was tired of people; especially that first week. You are overwhelmed with people the first week then all of a sudden, the day after the funeral, it all goes away. You are then left to feel what really just happened. If at anytime you need someone it's then.

I remember after my moms funeral everyone came by the house. It was a family reunion for them, for me it was my moms funeral. They talked and laughed while I felt myself dying inside. Then they left. Dishes were piled in the sink, paper and containers were all over the kitchen table and the floor was filthy where people had been in and out the whole week. I started cleaning. I thought to myself, "I could just hear my mom if she was here fussing about all of these low down greedy so and sos that just came in here and left a huge mess". Then I went upstairs and just laid there. Silently dying inside.

Yes, dealing with death is the hardest thing I've had to learn in my life. It can't be taught. Everyone responds different. Try to get a feel for your loved one who's experiencing death. Most times they wont tell you verbally what they really need. But if they are truly your loved ones, figure it out. Do more than tell them "I'm here if you need me." Be there.



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