It is never good to hear a phone ring at one in the morning. Saturday night had just faded into Sunday morning. The tear-soaked voice on the other end of the line was my sixty-nine year old father telling me his “Daddy” just died. My grandpa was ninety-six. His ailing heart had had enough. At 12:15am Edward John Rehfeldt Jr. took his last breath.
Jake woke up the next morning and came into the bedroom. He looked at my face. Jake knew. “Great Grandpa is dead.” To the ears of a twelve year-old, those words must ring with a stark finality. For Jake, this is his second direct experience with death. Five years ago we lost my grandmother. Death is not like in a Harry Potter movie. Some dark cloud does not swirl over your house and then, like crows born from a black hole, dark, cloak-draped skeletons descend from the heavens to look for you and your sick loved one.
In “real life”, the news of a death comes simply, like a stray dog that walks into your back door unannounced. The information and the facts arrive in the most pedestrian way: a telephone ringing.
Lately Jake has been obsessed with listening to the Flaming Lips. Since we heard the news, I’ve caught Jake twice singing in the shower. The tune? The Flaming Lips song is “Do You Realize.” Actually Jake has been singing it all week. In the shower, in the car and up in his room. At one point, while I was making dinner and I stopped to listen to him. Then I finally heard these words:
Do You Realize – that you have the most beautiful face
Do You Realize – we’re floating in space
Do You Realize – that happiness makes you cry
Do You Realize – that everyone you know someday will die
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes – let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
At twenty-five, I experienced losing my beautiful, graceful mother. Jake’s sweet voice brings back wonderful memories of my mother and grandparents and the terrific pain of their losses. I believe that love is transferred from us into the lives of others. When I Jake sings I know this could not be more true.