this most likely will trigger-talking about death,so caution!

I don’t really know my exact age in this photograph-I imagine around age 12!  Looking at my brothers rank as a seaman apprentice-he has just come home from boot camp.

I did not really know my brother-so I don’t know how old he is either-so I am figuring a six-year difference!

He gave me the sailors cap-this to go along with our  fathers Navy patches made my sailor’s uniform complete.

 The era was different. There was some kind of pride about growing up to be a man-and serve our country.

I am stuck somewhere. I told somebody this,a psychologist,who listened as I told about everything I do seems unfinished. It seems a part of me is stuck back then. The psychologist said I was still trying to live through a boy’s mind where everything seemed safer to me.

 Could be…I mean-it is strange to me how as with a VCR/DVD my mind can reel back to a certain instance (yet can’t recall my neighbors name at times) with absolute recall. I still see my baby brother as his shoes were blown off at the impact of the Chrysler that ran over him. Every time I drive and pass a random shoe on the road I remember that day. The pictures are so vivid!

I remember that as this boy in the photograph I was already collecting any picture I could of houses-floor plans were even higher on my list. Something the kids I played with then had no idea of my secret-I wanted to be an architect. My eyes were always attracted to the structures of that period.

 There were incidents of nature that took place when I was a boy. My sister died (age 11) when I was about 6-I remember even now the stool the funeral home attendant put in front of her casket so I could see. Death was an obvious matter-it seemed important then for undertakers to show the gathered crowd the remains of the deceased before they are properly attended to. As a kid I can almost run out of fingers counting the’ back yard viewings’,seeing dead folk in assorted profiles. On my kid brothers birthday my mother had sent me with a chunk of birthday cake for our neighbor Bennie. Bennie was an old drunk that sat in his Buick all day-smoking and drinking and watching traffic go by. We kids loved old Bennie. Arriving at his car that day it was empty. A funeral car was there-parked right behind the Buick. I walked up to Bennies porch-I had never been that far before. His sister opened the door-I had never seen her before. The undertakers rolled out the stretcher-and made sure I got my last look at Bennie. He was blue-his eyes were open,he had no teeth.

Mr.Hoke-more of an example of them all…he blows his brains out unknowing before a couple of kids- one of them me. I was not even as old as I am in this photo. Later in the day when his wife found him and the undertakers came and the neighborhood gathered the undertakers gave us a back yard viewing. A few days later my parents take me to the funeral home-and there is Mr.Hoke in exactly the same room my sister was. His casket was in the same spot. A ‘bingo’ goes off in my mind,things connect. And Mr.Hoke is ‘fixed’! After all…we all saw the damage.

I saw more death by the time I was 18 that it drew my curiosity (especially about Mr.Hoke and how they fixed all that up) when I was a young 21 years old. I began training as a mortician. Oddly enough! (although I learned what I wanted and quit)

I dealt with death in all manner of ways-and understood the truth of how it does not respect any one at any age or…if anything death was what always drew my heart towards knowing God. It is obvious,this part of life is so unfair of all who is touched by death.  It became more easier to understand when I took a position in a funeral home in Washington DC. Sometimes we had up to 5 funerals a day-sometimes all 20 of the repose rooms were filled with families-all bereaved,and always we heard various messages of a God and of a heaven,although different versions,always the promise of a new life.

For some reason-I had to have this experience! It is something we will all have an experience with one way or the other!

I am certain it is about my having to deal with my sister’s death,although I was just a little boy,I still knew somebody was missing!

No one sat me down and counseled me then,nor was any form of touch attempted when Carl was run over by the car.

I had to find out how they fixed Mr.Hokes head so he looked the same as usual…so working in a mortuary was a place to learn and to heal.

Crazy,aye? And not everybody gets to have that portion of a lesson. We all are different vessels-we all have some experience another might not have and that I cannot explain. I learned to understand death in the mortuary and through seeing it from a boy up…a man I once knew had a daughter that was viciously murdered-he sank into a wheel chair and died from grief. I have no explanations. My next door neighbor had a teenage son disappear. She never hunted for him but some hunters found him dead. He had been dead for months. She never ever seemed to grieve. I have no answer. Like I said,crazy.

So why is it one form of tragic events can be nothing-and another can blow your life apart? Why is it ?

I still connect with my funeral past. I briefly operated a tombstone business. There are still stones here. I collect funeral home items. I have a small collection of various items like toy cars (hearses) and advertisement materials like thermometers. I have a coffin in my living room,I am ready to rock on! I always say…”we should put the ‘fun’ back in funeral” !

So,why is it these things seem less unfortunate to me? Why is it I have the natural feelings of loss when someone I love dies! I cried when an old curmudgeon of a friend died so I know I am normal about grief.

I don’t get it.

I was asked the other day why I can’t get past barracks D? I was told that it seemed to my questioning friend why I bring everything around and blame it on barracks D.

I can’t explain why it is that I drive by a shoe on the road and say in my head “boom”…and in a short while I will enter my bathroom and nearly freak out about how many memories come to me from being raped in a toilet. It is those memories that haunt me. The very sound of a rest room,the smell of the cleaning fluids all trigger me. I am going to forever fear being in a restroom. Not death,but the countless times a day the toilet is necessary. I don’t get it. Everything! It seems everything I look at and wake up to-connects me with that past. I can’t quit dreaming about it and I never wake up with out remembering it. I am unable to get away from it.

PTSD? What a creative monster it is!

14 Responses to “this most likely will trigger-talking about death,so caution!”

  1. Joan Says:

    Hey, Jay!

    I don’t find what you are saying to be strange at all. We all grow up with different experiences that color our adult lives.

    My father (and his father) were sextons in a small rural cemetery. I practically grew up among the tombstones. I used to make a nickle for every stone that I trimmed around. When we had funerals – it wasn’t completely uncommon for the guys to lower me down on top of the closed vault to push the dirt in along the sides. That way the grave wouldn’t sink as much. (that was before all excavating/closing was done by power)

    I still love that cemetery. My grandfather is buried there. Some day I will lay my father to rest there. I can just sit there and see a little girl running with her grandfather among the trees – looking to see if the mulberries and rasberries were ripe yet. It is a very happy place – although I still miss those that are buried there – and I love the memories that have grown there. (My children have spent parts of their lives picking rasberries and mulberries from the same trees and bushes – We joke that the berries always seem to taste better when they come from the cemetery.)

    “So why is it one form of tragic events can be nothing-and another can blow your life apart? Why is it ?”

    Wow! Don’t I wish I had an answer to that question. I ask my shrink that on a pretty regular basis. Despite everything I have lived through – the one that still hurts and haunts the most is the beating I took from Jerk. There are other things that still bother me, daily in fact, but the one point that never goes away is Jerk and that stupid stick!

    I don’t think you are crazy at all! When I was a kid I wanted to grow up and become a forensic pathologist…then I was going to marry Quincy and he and I were going to spend our lives solving crimes. What 10 year old kid wants that? Hell, maybe I am crazy 😉

    Peace and blessings!


    • jayherron Says:

      I love a graveyard! The one I am going to be buried in-lovely place…I told the lady with the plot book (who came to sell me my plot) to let me lay down on a few to see how I liked the view!! She cracked up laughing…but I was serious. Death is something everyone fears-but for no reason,it is where life begins! Eternal life! I look forward to it…but won’t rush it! peace

      • Joan Says:

        Jay –

        I don’t even know where to begin laughing at that one…because that is almost exactly how my Grandfather picked out his spot! I remember him telling me that so your story about picking your plot brings very happy memories!

        My Grandpa literally picked his “spot” because he wanted to be very close to the gate so he could see everyone coming and going but not so close to the highway that he was “bothered” by all the traffic. (Mind you – heavy traffic on that stretch of road is three cars backed up behind a tractor!)

        Yes – there is a whole lot of enjoyment for me in wandering around a strange cemetery – reading the stones and thinking about the lives of those people. Besides…no one bugs you out there!

        And you are exactly right…death is when we start living. Today, the lives that we lead, are meant to prepare us for our eternal life with Christ. Why some of us have a harder row to hoe…I wish I knew. Like I have said before – we are purified and made stronger in the fire. The fire makes us glow and be a light to others. Someday we will know all – but then every tear will be wiped away in the arms of Jesus.



      • jayherron Says:

        Ha ha ha…it is funny-your grandfathers wishes…my grave site is right behind ‘Buster’ Mountain-the funniest human being I’ve ever met! He was a mechanic in the small town where our graveyard is,and there he is buried. I look at it like this-eternity will be a fun place if Buster is there! Seriously-the book of Romans says “the wages of sin is death” and we are all sinners in this place-so through Jesus we are alive! ALIVE! PEACE

  2. bookwitchery Says:

    No, it’s not strange at all. Western society is so weird about death, we treat it as an oddity. Yes, it’s sad, yes we will have grief. But no one talks about it, especially to children.

    My daughter had only been 5 years old for about 3 months when my mother passed away. My uncle had called me at work the the night she was admitted to the hospital, and he said, “don’t worry, there’s always hope.” When my husband and I drove to WV the next day, I called my brother to say, “should we go to the hospital or should we go to the house first.” He said, “just come to the house.” I know he didn’t want to tell me over the phone that Mom was gone, but I knew by his words. My fears were verified when we pulled up at the house and outside stood my dad, both of my brothers, my uncles, and my sister and all of her kids. My sister came up to me sobbing saying “She’s gone, she’s gone.” After she let me go, I called my daughter over, and said, “Honey, we’re not going to be able to see Mawmaw anymore. ” I started to say more when she said, “I know. I don’t want to talk about it.” and ran off to play with her cousins. The next day, my husband took her into one of the bedrooms to try to get her to take a nap, and she started crying. He told her it was OK to cry, and she said, “I don’t like it. I don’t like it.” “You don’t like what, sweetie?” “I just don’t like it. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.”
    She still doesn’t like to talk about it, and we don’t force her. But we do try to let her know that it’s OK to feel sad, and sometimes even years later we still remember things about people who are gone and that’s OK too. She’s had more experience with death since. My husband’s grandfather. Following that, “Pa”‘s wife, who has alzheimers, went downhill FAST. I think Arthur was keeping her anchored here. So we’ve lost Irene before we’ve really lost her. And now the family has called in hospice for another one of my husband’s grandmothers (I think I posted about it sometime last week…).
    My therapist asked me once how things were handled when my grandmother died. I said, quite simply, we didn’t talk about it. No one really talked about it. My therapist responded with, “No wonder you’re having such a hard time with your mother’s death. You’ve never really seen anyone grieve. You don’t know HOW to grieve. As you’re working on this you can give this gift to your daughter.”

    I know this has been wordy….but your post really did touch me on many levels.

    • jayherron Says:

      I would rather you be wordy than to mince your words! What ever any one says here-it is important,and what you have to say-is important. Funny-when I was a little kid my mother used to tuck me in and say this prayer,of sorts… “Now I lay me down to sleep,I pray the Lord my soul to keep…if I shall DIE before I wake,I pray the Lord my soul to take!” Scared the shit out of me everynight…will I die before I wake?? Everynight-scared me bad! Little kids-need such help to grow up! You must always remember…if you have something to say-say it! I welcome your responses! peace

  3. bookwitchery Says:

    Incidentally. just to put an addition .02 in….
    Few things piss me off more quickly than someone saying, to anyone, “Why can’t you get over it?” “Why aren’t you over it yet?”

    Makes me wish we could, like in the science fiction movies, touch someone and make them feel what we feel, go through what we went through. Not permanently, but just for a moment, just to make them understand. Or at least pay them back for such a stupid comment.

    • jayherron Says:

      I WISH I could GET OVER IT!

    • bookwitchery Says:

      Me too, hon. All of us. You don’t GET OVER something like that.
      You deal with it, on a day to day basis.
      Some days are easier than others. You take it day by day. Hell, minute by minute if you have to. Trust the lady who was out in public today and had a panic attack but had to hold it together because she had her 8 year old daughter in tow and didn’t want to frighten the child. I don’t know how I did it. Well, yes I do. Minute by minute.

      People are such morons. I don’t wish this kind of pain on anyone, but damn do I wish I could make them understand.

      • jayherron Says:

        …actually,I am about to go to my 30 something son’s house and talk to him about my mental health issues-and try to explain some things. He is in law enforcement and yet has some confusion about the mental minds of some of his ‘clients’ and has difficulty seperating there are nut cases…and there are nut cases,and I am oone of those,but not the one that he has to deal with-yet,likely that I am. I need to explain-PTSD has much to do with why I do or act in my fashion. Poor kids-mine…they grew up around me (and with me) and had to try to understand on their own!

  4. bookwitchery Says:

    Hope your discussion with your son went well. It’s good that he’s interested in trying at least.
    We all deal with stuff in so many different ways. It’s amazing sometimes.

  5. laura tattoo Says:

    so sorry that you have had to live through all of these traumatic events, jay. you are such a strong person and brave brave! to have this blog that explores every aspect of your life, your thinking, your feeling. more and more veterans are discovering it. i’m so glad because we can all learn from you. you have become, in the purest form of the word, a healer. sending love and thoughts to you today. ~lt xoxoxoxooxoxoxox

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