The Truth Behind The Smile
by Devon Cooper
Opening up the newspaper, I scan along the headlines and come to a stop at the obituaries.
Looking at the smiling faces of people who are no longer with us, reading about their life, age, and death. I began to remember the horrifying time when the picture smiling back at me was a 73-year-old man from Decatur, Texas, who had a pretty amazing life, with a family of two sons and a wife of 48 years, and four grandchildren. He wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; death was brought upon him as a result of past habits that destroyed his health. He passed away at a nursing home early in the morning in his sleep. But. What stuck out, that most ordinary people didn’t know, was that this charming guy had a granddaughter, who was the eldest of all the grandchildren, and who was most attached to this man, and who was his favorite little girl. Me.
But. A simple obit doesn’t begin to describe this man’s life. No where in this piece of paper does it mention the hardships this man had to face during his life time. No where does it mention him waking up at three o’clock every morning to go to work so that his children and wife would have enough money to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. No where does it mention the car wreck that was the start of his continuous back pain and arthritis. And no where does it mention his non-stop drinking and smoking that ruined his health.
Nor, did this obit mention all the great things in his life that made the bad things not so bad.
It didn’t mention his eldest son’s talent for football, basketball, baseball, and just about every other sport. No where did it mention the joy in his face of seeing his son ,my dad, play varsity quarterback for the Decatur Eagles. It also didn’t mention his happiness with his youngest son who showed cattle and played football during high school. But most importantly. It didn’t show the things that mattered to him the most. His grandchildren.
The granddad I knew was one of the sweetest guys ever. The guy I knew never drank and never yelled at me except when I was a toddler throwing tantrums. The guy I knew would have done anything for me and the rest of his grandchildren to make us happy. The guy I knew was a man who would sit at the table across from you and smoke a cigarette and tell you some story of his past that would take about 45 minutes to tell. The guy I knew was not only my favorite grandparent but also my best friend.
One thing it did tell you was that he died on January 6, 2006. But it didn’t tell you that around 3:00 in the morning, I was awaken by my dad’s fake cheery voice. It didn’t tell you that with one look at my dad’s and mom’s faces, I knew something was wrong. It didn’t tell you the feeling I had when my dad told me the news. But now that I think about it. I don’t think it could. Words couldn’t really describe the way my heart felt that day, the way my stomach was clenched like a fist, the way my brain didn’t want to believe he was gone, and the way it felt to be without him.
The obit also mentioned the date of the visitation and of the funeral. But you wouldn’t have known the feeling I had driving to Coker Funeral Home for the visitation. You probably wouldn’t have known I had never been to a visitation or funeral so I had no idea what to expect. You probably wouldn’t have known that as soon as I saw his lifeless body lying there that the world as I knew it fell apart. You probably wouldn’t have known that the next day at his funeral I didn’t hear a word the preacher spoke. You probably wouldn’t have known that I was sitting there crying, praying that it was all a nightmare I was about to awake from. And you definitely wouldn’t have known the feeling I had before they shut the casket for the last time. You wouldn’t have known how bad I didn’t want them to shut that casket, how bad I wanted them to leave it open so I would never have to be without him. And so I wouldn’t have to know that it was my last time to ever see him again and to know for the rest of my life that that casket would be buried underground and that I would never be able to hug him again and kiss him goodbye.
So that little piece of paper that wouldn’t have changed the ordinary person’s life tore mine apart.