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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

The Last Word


Accepting Death — (November 1997) Death has been on my mind a lot recently. With so many celebrities passing away, it seems to be on the public's mind a lot as well. I really have had enough of it, to tell the truth. Especially because recently it hit closer to home.

A few weeks ago, the weekend of PriMedia 97 to be exact, my next door neighbor passed away suddenly. He had been complaining of a chest cough which wouldn't abate and thus checked into a hospital for some tests. Nothing was being found and the doctors decided to run a biopsy test on him and then send him home.

He never had the chance.

The biopsy burst a cyst of some kind which had been hiding behind a lung. The liquid in the cyst quickly spread throughout his body, basically poisoning him. He passed away within a few days after that, lamenting having gone to the hospital and worrying about those he was leaving behind.

I've known this man most of my life. My folks moved to this house when I was 5 years old. Thus, I knew him growing up. I hung out with his oldest son and went to school with his youngest daughter. They weren't just neighbors, they were part of the family. My son really liked him as well and played with him everything he was outside (as my neighbor was constantly outside). James was beginning to know his name as well and really liked talking about and to him, sometimes shouting down at him from our windows.

And suddenly, he'd never be able to do that again. My neighbor watched me grow up, and was beginning to watch my son grow up and that came to an abrupt halt. In fact, at the viewing of the body, his wife just held me tightly while we both cried and she repeated over and over: "He's gone, he's no longer here. He's no longer gonna be here for your little guy". I had and still have no idea how to explain it to him. How do you disrupt a 3-year old's life by telling him someone he loved playing with is dead? Why must the harsh realities of life intrude upon his world of joy already?

To say I took it hard is an understatement. My dad (actually, my mom as well) is quite adamant about not showing emotions in times of grief. He was getting on my case during the viewing because of my unabashed grief. His explanations of "there's nothing that can be done at this point" was constantly met with my "that doesn't mean I can't let my emotions out". But it was difficult. The previous night, I started breaking down on the drive home from work. The night of the viewing, I again broke down on the drive home. I cried at the viewing, and really broke when I got home. My wife was at a complete loss on what to do. Even now, over 3 weeks after the event, I'm finding myself with tears in my eyes trying to type this up.

I tried to come to terms with my grief, but I think I simply fell under the human guise of "time heals". All this is also ironic in how the same weekend he passed on, my friend's sister (another neighbor) gave birth. Life and death. The eternal circle.


(The Last Word (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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