Column: No stranger to death


Ryann Daugherty

Freshman Matt Bolden has coped with many deaths throughout his life. He shares his feelings about his experience in this column.

In my life I’ve witnessed many deaths, many funerals, watching relatives fall like flies, and still, I keep going.

“Why did this happen to me?” I ask myself. Over and over I contemplate what I could’ve done differently, what I should’ve said, should’ve done. These thoughts run through my head, and I can’t stop them. 

It all began in the spring of 2011 when my paternal great-grandfather passed away. It was hard for my dad and especially hard for my grandma, but I was only six, so it didn’t affect me as much. Next, it was my Uncle Michael who passed away from cancer. That hit me harder than any before because I had at least a couple of memories with him. Fast forward to November of 2014. I was living in a city called Bloomington, Illinois, and in fourth grade, we learned that one of our very own classmates, Jason, was diagnosed with cancer. We didn’t know how long he had, but we were hopeful and prayed for a speedy recovery. 

Alas, our luck ran out; during the summer of fifth grade, his condition worsened, and his future dimmed.

 On the morning of February 27, 2017, he passed away. Our class had never before felt such pain and hurt. One of our very own classmates, someone we used to see every day, would no longer be there. 

The halls of the school darkened with grim expressions on everyone’s faces in the weeks of his passing. The halls never really felt the same, especially considering that earlier that month, one of our classmate’s mother had died after an ongoing fight with cancer. After two huge blows to our psyche, the rest of the year was hard on everyone, especially in our class. Then, after seventh grade, I moved to Lovejoy to start my eighth grade year as a brand new, fresh, off the block kid. 

The next death on the list was my maternal grandfather. “Papa Jim” is what we used to call him. That November, over Thanksgiving break, my family traveled to Colorado to see him. He had a tough battle with Alzheimer’s for more than two years. He had been placed in a memory care facility, which helped keep him safe while his mind deteriorated. For me, it was hard to have a grandpa forget my name after countless memories with him, but I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my mom. To have your father forget your name, your identity from time to time must have been complete and utter agony. But on top of that, people with extreme cases of Alzheimer’s, will wake up one day and forget what year it is, even their name they can’t remember. And that is what truly breaks my heart.

 A little over a month later, my maternal grandmother lost her five year battle with cancer.  With the back-to-back deaths of her parents, my mom took it pretty hard. She’d always had her parents in her life and then all of a sudden they were just gone. We had known that they had their respective illnesses for a couple of years but it hit us hard nevertheless. 

The last and most recent death was that of my yellow Labrador, Boomer. We got him when I was five months old and he was always really gentle with everyone and a warm kind presence in the house. He was basically the twin I never had, and I loved him the same. Just before school started, he had a fall and we chose to have him put down. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. 

But what the important part is that no matter what happens in your family or friends, no matter what you have to go through, there will always be people there for you, to comfort you. For me it was my parents, they helped me in times of need and I helped them. 

One of the major things my parents did was to try and distract us and take our minds off of the subject. For example, after my family got home from colorado after christmas my dad just up and decided that we needed some Braum’s, and that really hit the spot. And sometimes just the warm embrace of a family member was all it took to bring me back to reality. Just being in the presence of family is enough for me.

When something bad happens to you, and it will happen, just know who you can have to comfort and reassure you during your time of grief.