Death… Shock and Everything Between… Until Tommy Died, I Didn’t Know It Hurt This Much

This is all I have of Rick-Rick… his ashes are in this beautiful chest… Rick-Rick’s Chest.  It sits beside our Mother‘s Rose Chest, in my happy art room…….


Death… Shock and Everything Between…  Until Tommy Died, I Didn’t Know It Hurt This Much

By Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee



Today… my little brother, my most favorite brother, died… eight years ago.  He died May 19, 2005… not even 5 months after our home burned down, destroying all.  Just saying that, hurts me deeply.  I loved him with my very heart… Rick-Rick was the family member who would ‘come through hell’ to me, his sister.  I knew he loved me very much… this is the only family member I ever ‘knew’ truly loved me.


I remember standing there in shock, watching the house burn down… there was a crowd of people all around… all of a sudden, Rick-Rick’s face appears in front of me… his eyes were streaming tears… tears for what had just happened to us.  I was trying to hear his words as he cried… telling me he was so sorry, he cared.  He was so, distraught.  Ricky seemed to ‘pop up’ for me to let me know he cared with his heart… when bad things happened to me.


Ricky was there, always… to help me many years ago.  He worked on my car, never charging me for anything, excepting to buy the parts.  I can ‘see his hands’ when he’d repair my car in the winter-time… when he’d scuff them up, cutting them… I can see the blood in my mind’s eye.  I can even ‘feel’ the little ‘shock’ that runs through me when I see someone is hurt.  I couldn’t bear for his hands to get hurt working on my car.


When I almost died, in the hospital after major surgery that saved my life… I woke up while still in ‘that other world of being heavily medicated; not knowing what’s happened’…. I saw my brother, Rick-Rick… he was looking at me with tears in his eyes… he was crying ‘for me’.


I don’t think he knew I could somehow, see him… I saw him quietly leave the room.  I know he didn’t hear me calling him back… I think I didn’t make a sound.  Rick-Rick would just ‘pop up’ anytime… no one had to ask him to come.


Getting back to the house fire… I tried so hard to hear what Rick-Rick was trying to tell me.  Have you ever tried to ‘hear someone’s voice’…. when in shock?


Have you ever been in shock so, many times in your life… trying to take in what’s happened, trying to hear….. to see someone’s mouth moving… not hearing a sound they made?  I have… so, many bad things have happen in my life… I can tell you, each time it happens… I haven’t become used to it; I still can’t hear someone talking.


How many times have I stood, sat… watching someone’s mouth move… and have this thought?  ‘I see your mouth working… I can’t hear what you are saying’.  Shock does that…. you can’t feel, think…. hear.


Our home burned down on December 28, 2004… several days after that, my first cousin, died in a most horrible crash… a log truck hit her head-on.  I wish I could relate some things here about that… so, surreal when they happened… you would think it was in a book.  I can’t bear to think about that right now…. it involved what I saw.  All served to push me into further… shock.


She was helping us to get back on our feet; she gave us money, household things for the place we’d found… she and I had promised that ‘no matter what’ we’d be close for the rest of our life… we were for several days.  She died before we got to see if we could be ‘forever’.


We were going to keep it secret… there were family members who couldn’t stand to see anyone close… they’d keep on until they ‘busted that up’.  One aunt in particular hated us; she had caused a rift between us in the past.


Jealousy, hatred for the other sisters’ daughters… to understand… you’d have to be in ‘the family’… too many women.  Everyone knows ‘each woman wants to be the Queen‘…. in fact, if that particular aunt was on the phone with my mother when I came to see her… my mother would tell her so, she could get off the phone… my aunt would become angry with her, and say something about ‘the Queen’ being there.  She would punish my mother by not calling for some time, to upset her.  She caused such grief through the years.  I forgot to say… I grew up with very vindictive family.  You couldn’t dare show them any happiness you were feeling… in fact, if you came around some of them with brightly colored balloons… they’d take pleasure into walking up to you while smiling… and prick every one of them.  Not only that… never  understand ‘why you would be upset at them’.  The pleasure…. you could always ‘see that pleasure’ they got in their eyes.


She was angry because her own daughter had turned against her; never had anything to do with her again until the day she died.  I watched, listened to my other family crying, telling me how she would blackmail them for something that ‘happened 20 years ago’.  If one was smart… they’d hide being close; hide letting her know they loved ‘another family member’…. she wasn’t the only one who hated to see ‘love’ in the family.  They instantly go to work to ‘undermine’ it….


In my family… we all know that it ‘can’t be’… that’s okay, we all are fine that way.  We learned to be.  It doesn’t mean you have to ‘hate’ the other… though, I’m sure some do.  I don’t hate at all.


We ‘don’t need’ each other.  Now.. that I don’t have family left… I’m glad I was brought up that way.  I love the family members I have now…at a distance… I want them to stay at a distance… because I… realize I don’t know how to appreciate having ‘real’ family at this late day and time.  I ‘don’t know what to do; how to act’… it’s my fault… life made me that way.


I know…     ‘I don’t have family left’…..     ‘the family members I have, now’…    one contradicts the other.  It’s my life…. and all I can say… that’s just the way it is… no more, no less.  It is what it is….


It’s not their fault, they tried to reach out to me… I just can’t do it… I just can’t do it.  I don’t need ‘extra pain’.  I don’t ‘know how to be family’…. I can’t love ‘up close’… I can only ‘love at a distance’, when no one can get into my personal life.  It’s the only way I know; it’s the only way I grew to be through all these years when ‘no one was around for me’.


Why… how could I change now?  I tried to.  I failed at it miserably… just plain-out miserably.  I guess I’m a failure at that… I know I am.  I don’t like to hurt people, I don’t mean to… I want to keep them at a distance from me.  I can’t love ‘family’…. up close.


I’ve just ‘hurt family’… by putting distance between us.  It’s probably a permanent distance ‘now’… that’s okay, I’ve been walking in those shoes all my life.  I’m not like anyone in my family… I just can… not connect… I don’t know how.


Not only that, I see it in some of my other ‘family members’… they are so afraid to trust, that they won’t even say where they live, afraid our own family will destroy them with our past.  How anyone can blame or look badly at a child… when it wasn’t their fault at all, they had no choice in how they grew up?


I ‘know where they are coming from’… I understand why they are so suspicious, distrustful… I ‘came from the same place’… I walk in ‘those shoes’.


I can’t hold it against them… We all lived so far off from each other (several thousands of miles) through time… the last time we’ve seen each other was when we were little.  No one even has a clue ‘where the other has walked in life, the effects life events have played on the other’… ‘one size doesn’t fit all’.  Just because you are alright, doesn’t mean the other one is.


Just because they look, sound okay… that’s pride (you know…. where we want the other to think we have life by the horns; life’s good to us)… doesn’t mean it’s so.  We are so hurt when we realize… no one knew ‘that about us’… seems like ‘they’d know’…


We all are different… who in the world is going to take time, or the interest … to find out?  No one… it no longer matters.  We’ve ‘learned to go our own ways’… we don’t need, nor want the others in our life ‘now’.  Sad?


Yes, yes it is… life can be that way… it’s real life no matter what you, or I think, or like about it.  It’s going to be… and that’s just the way it is.  How do I know?  I feel the same way.


There were so many of us who experienced ‘Hell’… we all came from the ‘same place’ as children.  ‘Hell’ burned scars on our minds that can’t be seen… but, whenever any one of us has contact… all you have to do is to listen… the scars have a way of showing themselves.  Our words, the way we think, feel… reflect them just as a mirror picks up all our flaws in a bright light.


I say to them… don’t be afraid of the other…. ‘tell the world first, if you have to… and go on living’.  This way of thinking came from watching as children… our mothers getting angry, blackmailing the other to get their way.  They did do things they shouldn’t have; they made the mistake of trusting a sister; it’d come back later to ‘bite them in the ass’.


No one thought ‘to tell the world what they didn’t want known’… they’d let themselves be blackmailed every time.  That taught me a valuable lesson… ‘if you threaten me… I will tell on myself in a heartbeat if I lose every friend in the world… and not only that… I’ll tell them ‘why’ I did something.  I’m strong enough… all that’s happened to me in my life has made me a for-real good person.  I don’t understand, yet… I do… why my mother and her family members would let themselves be ‘blackmailed’.


I ‘see fear’ in some of my family members… the same old thing I watched as a little girl.  Fear of other family members… because some don’t mind ripping another family member’s life apart.  In fact, quite a few of them … thrived on ‘drawing blood’.  Loved to ‘see what happens if they said this, said that’.  They wanted to ‘see what would happen if they pulled the spider’s legs off’.  I have never-ever wanted to be like that!  I can’t tell how many times I watched that through time….


The more pain caused… the bigger the smile would become… until they were ‘pure gleeful’.  It made the adrenaline rush… giving such a high.  I knew several family like this… ‘gleeful’ was how I’d describe them, as they danced around proud… that they’d just destroyed someone’s life. As a little girl, I’d be so fascinated watching such happen… when I was little… it appeared to me ‘like magic’.. just crazy, I know.  Little children try to make sense of what their little, innocent eyes see….


I’d see bright lights in their eyes, so happy they were!  I’d see, hear such a rush, see the set of their faces… know when they caused such pain to another… it made them high… on a roll.  They had meant to get someone back, and they ‘got his ass’… now, ‘who is Queen of the mountain’.. and ‘I showed your ass’!


This is what this person grew up seeing… I thought everyone was like this… thankfully, I didn’t trust as many people as I could have through time; sadly, I trusted some, shouldn’t ever have. To see so much of this in different family members… something had to be born into us… or it was learned from generation to generation.  One side of our family is known for having a ‘………….. streak’… the ones who ‘had it’… stood out when angry, or happy.  Definitely noticed by… everyone.  All my family know what I say is true… the ones living grew up seeing what I did… they didn’t get out ‘un-scarred’.


Most all turned out to be good people from what I know.  So… how can one hold mistakes against someone for things they had no control of when children, growing up….when you see such?  I can’t.


That may be because…. I’m not perfect, and if I’d been… I’d never know what I know now.  I’d still be making the same mistakes.  I’d probably be a drunk, addicted to drugs, a prostitute, a really bad person who’d do bad things… I’ve been around all as a younger person.  I saw how to do it all… somehow, I didn’t turn out to be any of the things I just named, or the things… I didn’t name.  All ‘combined’ made me want to be ‘me’… the person I am.  I ‘tried some of the dresses on’… but, they didn’t ‘fit me’….


I wanted to be good as I could be… things don’t bite you in the ass when you are… if any do…. the bite won’t be as severe.  It’s better to be as good as you can be… I promise that… take it from me.


I don’t know that life is ‘so much better when you are as good as can be’… because through time when ‘I could have been very, very bad’… I wasn’t… yet, I see people who are very, very bad… end up ‘having everything’ they could possibly desire in life.


My ‘good decisions’… made me ‘lose out on so much’…………. but, guess what?  I have a peaceful mind knowing I haven’t cheated to get material things; stolen or deceived someone when I could have easily done it.  We’ve had/have our hard times… but, though our minds aren’t peaceful when we do… they are… because we ‘do right’.  Peace of mind… is a good thing.  Not hurting others is a good thing.


We can’t help all that happened when we were young; nor the mistakes we made as we grew up not knowing any better…. the good thing is… getting off the paths we got on from ignorance; not knowing…  traveling good paths in life.  The words make it sound like it was so easy ‘to just learn quickly, jump onto a good path and go off into the sunset to live happily ever after’.


That’s not so, at all… I can’t tell you the years of hell, grief of trying to learn the hard way; there wasn’t anyone to teach me…  how it affected my life so much… it’s a wonder I’m not dead, or in a prison, or have disappeared somewhere.


I learned the hard way also, because of pride… too much pride.  I didn’t want someone to think ‘I didn’t know something’… I made mistakes ‘until I learned’.  I learned from them so well… because I felt the pain from learning them the hard way…. oh why, couldn’t I have asked someone?


Oh… I’ve learned this in all my years, know it to be true…. when you do good things for others… it really does come back to one in …more ways than one.  I’d like to do more good than I do… sadly, there are people who are ‘always there’ to take advantage… greed, getting something for nothing.  We got fooled not long ago, when we gave away a lot of nice things we’ve had stored up, never using.  We wanted them to go to people who really needed….


One day I will write about my younger life… for now, it’s not the time.  Only then… will I write about… my life.  I can’t write for the others……. my words will be my own words, about me.  They will have to write about their own life… I can’t do it for them; nor do I desire to.


Getting back to my cousin’s death when she was killed in the crash… and our home burning down.  It was so strange to be reading through eyes that made it almost impossible to read… for the tears, about ‘both’… our home burning, and my cousin dying in the crash ‘at the same time’.


I remembered thinking that when we were little, we never knew I’d be standing there reading in a newspaper about our home burning down, much less at the same time, reading about her death in the log truck crash.  Can you even imagine such?  I couldn’t wrap my mind around it… I just couldn’t believe it.


To read about someone who was the only ‘real’ sister I had as a little girl, my own cousin I loved dearly … while we were digging through the rubble where our house burned…. I remember as I read the small town newspaper, I stopped, stood for a while just staring off into space… remembering her; seeing us play as the little blonde-headed girl, and me, the little brown-haired girl.  That was when I liked … to cook… I never did as an adult.  :)))


We made all kinds of chocolate pies… from mud.  We had our own little kitchen, playhouse. We kept it very clean (we were taught to clean… so, we were taught something).


Our kitchen/playhouse was behind Grandma Alma’s house, on the side of George’s out-building under the ‘Catawba tree’ where somehow…. worms ‘grew from that tree’!  I was too little to understand… even now, I would have to research it to know… ‘what made me think worms grew from that tree’.


I was several years older than my cousin… I remember when we began thinking about ‘how pretty’ we were.  We began to ‘pose’ in our photos… just like we saw our mamas do.  They were beautiful… we were on our way to being … beautiful.  We knew it… we were taught this too, by watching, admiring all the many women in our family.


Our family was known for ‘the prettiest women; the prettiest girls’.  Today… is no exception… there are some beautiful young women in our family ‘now’…  Not only that, their daughters are …just as beautiful.  Truthfully, I don’t know many ‘ugly women’ in our family… the ones I ever saw, let themselves get old, bitter, angry.


I’ll never forget how I found out about my cousin’s death.  That day when we heard all the sirens… lots of them… we had no idea.  We even followed at a distance up hwy. 56… stopped at the bottom of the hill, looked up at the top.  From there, we could see the white car… never suspecting it was her.  We could see the log truck…..


Skip and I turned around to go back, salvage any little thing from the house-fire…. people were stopping, stealing anything they could find that wasn’t damaged… taking it with them.  We were trying to find our things if there were things not ruined… before someone else got them.


Sometimes… people we knew, stopped to get what they could… we were told about them; we said they would give those things to us… we were sure that’s ‘why’ they searched through our things.  We are still waiting for them… to give what they found… to us.  Maybe they just … forgot; I know they didn’t mean to keep them.  I’m sure they don’t know ‘we know they did that’.


When we’d drive by, we would see them standing there, picking things up.  Our friends close by told us who they saw.  People we knew would drive by, see people carrying books, any piece of furniture they could find… with them.


I didn’t know people came like vultures to steal your things before you could come back to go through all…. when your home burned down… I never thought of doing such…. I never thought about trying to steal someone’s things like that… nice people, at that….


That evening my cousin died in the crash, Ms Nancy drove up… she began speaking to me… I went into the second shock; it had only been several days our home burned down.


She told me about my cousin being killed by the log truck…  she wanted me to hear from someone who cared about me… instead of hearing it from someone else.  She told me, herself.


The cellphone rang before Ms Nancy told me… it was my cousin’s husband asking if my cousin was there… he knew she might would come by… she hadn’t got home yet.  I didn’t know at that moment… moments later, I learned.


How many times did I go into shock during that time?  I stayed so numb… all the things I saw was behind an ‘invisible wall’… one that tried to protect me from so much pain.


Just a couple of months before the house fire, my cousin’s death from the log truck crash… her brother… ‘committed suicide’… I heard a lot of conflicting stories.  I won’t go into that.  I don’t know what really happened; only what my cousin who died in the crash… told me.  When we were little, he was my brother… though we were first cousins.  He protected me in my first grades in school… my own little brother had disappeared out of my life.  He was taken to a different… Hell.


Since Tommy died, my mind goes to my mother’s sister… their mother.  I keep seeing her face… no wonder her face looked the way it did… I have a photo I put on here, of me, just last week… my face had the same expression.  It was a photo I don’t remember being taken of me just after Tommy died.


One can ‘see’ I was in another world… I couldn’t bear to be ‘here’ for the pain; though, my physical body was.  I understand, and have since Tommy died ‘why’… no one can understand unless… they walk in the same shoes.  You’ve got to have a child who has died… in her situation, oh my God… think about it, she had 2 children died within 4 months.


I can’t even imagine what it feels like with two children dying so close together in such horrible circumstances.  I only know how it feels when my only child died… guess what?


It doesn’t matter how a mother’s child dies… just dying, going away forever, changes her whole life.  If they died by someone’s hand… someone did something terrible to them… oh my God, it would keep tormenting the mother.


I can only think of the ‘double’ grief… my aunt suffered.  In my mind, I see her face.  She’s gone now… but, honestly… I almost know from my own experience that no one could have ever possibly known the extent of her mental anguish, the grief in her mind.  I didn’t know at the time…. I just knew she has lost both children, how awful for that to happen.  I knew that it hurt her.  Until Tommy died … I didn’t know it … hurt this much.


9 thoughts on “Death… Shock and Everything Between… Until Tommy Died, I Didn’t Know It Hurt This Much

  1. So much sorrow and pain hun. 😦

    I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better, but I can’t.

    Know that you are a lovely person Gloria and I love you for it.

    Huge hugs and best wishes!


    • Prenin, if I could wave a magic wand, you would be one of my first people to make all your dreams come true. I wish I was a fairy Godmother… :))) Thank you for your special words. Love, Gloria

  2. my mother would have been so happy to be part of such a family so that tells you about her. it is wonderful how you realize there is a difference in telling your story and theirs. that is too often overlooked.

  3. Pingback: I Weathered The Storm… I Was The Storm | GRANNY'S COLORFUL

  4. It feels icky to ‘like’ such a dark and sad story. But I sensed the very real pain you conveyed. I am sorry you have had to bear so much tragedy and pain throughout your life. Certainly, for you, and others like you, God will have set aside a very special place in Heaven for you.

    • Your words are special, CJ. I write the pain when I ‘visit’ those memories… the good thing is that when I leave them to be back in the present… they don’t hurt me now. I don’t even feel anger… just wonder, sometimes. :))) If some pain follows me back, I shake it as soon as possible. :)))

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