Updated: May 20, 2020
She fidgeted and looped her hankie around her index and middle finger of her right hand, as I held her left. She'd tighten her fist into a ball, squeezing the delicate and aged cloth of the handkerchief, that I can only imagine, she'd had since she was a teen- as she tried to maintain her composure. I watched my grandmother's... my "Granny's" hands closely. These same, strong hands, that taught me to crochet, knit and sew. They taught me to snap "snaps" (string beans for you non- southerners) and pop butters (lima beans). Strong hands that taught me how to make homemade biscuits, to scale a fish, to skin a rabbit, to plant flowers, to dig 'taters... they looked so fragile and weak as we sat in that church pew, listening to my musician cousin strum his guitar, as we laid my father to rest.
That's about all I can remember from my father's funeral service. I know bits and pieces from what family has told me, but I definitely remember my Granny's hands. Such a bold, brazen and strong woman. Wasn't scared of ANYTHING. LOL! Seriously! She took no junk from anyone. Life had truly taken a beating... FROM HER. LOL! I remember my Papa telling me that he didn't carry a weapon with him whenever Granny was around. LOL! Of everything from that time frame, when my father passed, I remember my Granny, though. I remember how she smiled as tears pooled in the corners of her eyes. I remember her forcing herself to sit up straight in the pew, when I knew all she wanted to do was crunch up into a ball and cry non stop. That's what I wanted to do, at least, but thank the LORD my aunt (a nurse) gave me something to calm down. I can remember watching her chest, shakily rise and fall as she swallowed her pain. She was crying on the outside, but inside she was losing it as she watched her first born son lay in that casket. After the service, we all went back to her and my Papa's little cabin in the woods, ate lots of food and talked about the funny stuff my dad would do. (He was the ultimate prankster)
Was my Granny a survivor?
My father passed away, Christmas time of 2001, due to a massive heart attack during a jog, and my memory went with him. My Great Aunt was with him when it happened, so she's helped me understand most. She decided to stop by to say hello since it was the holidays, when she noticed my dad and our Beagle, "Sammy," jogging up our dirt, farm road.
She's the one that tried to save his life, by calling on neighbors and 9-1-1. She was there in his final moments.
Is she a survivor?
For him to be someone I idolized, it's a shame I can only remember everything up until the moment that I received the call to come to the hospital. After that, things are a blur. I suffered from a form of PTSD induced amnesia, which is how my therapist explained it. I can remember holding my dad's hand after they pronounced him dead, though. It was cold. Stiff. Lifeless. Something I wish I could forget, honestly. He was such a strong man. My Granny raised him to be Fearless, Honorable, Fair, and Just. As a Police Captain and FBI affiliate, he was praised by the community- good and bad guys, alike. After his death, I cried a lot. I was angry at G-d. I was angry at my dad. I was so hurt and lost in remorse, that I punished myself daily with guilt of loving people, because I didn't understand the point.
I got over it to a degree, but, does that mean I'm a survivor?
Thinking about myself, now, as a mother... When my son was born, he had digestive issues that kept him from gaining weight. I couldn't breastfeed and what little bit he got, he would spit up. He lost weight so fast. We were so scared we were going to lose him. We tried everything: Formula mixing, supplementations, baby antacids thinking it was reflux... you name it! Finally I asked G-d to lead me to the right answer. We saw a new doctor, and even though she told us it would be tough to get him back on track, I was ready to do whatever I had to.
I was feeding my kid every hour, on the hour. Day and night. I rarely slept. I rarely ate. I cried a LOT. (That is NOT an exaggeration) As his mother, who loves him with every part of my being, I told myself, "It will be worth it. You are his protector. You've got this!" I was NOT going to be my Granny, sitting in a church pew, struggling to maintain, if my little baby boy went early from this world. I was willing and ready to do all that I had to, to keep my kid alive. For the first 4 months of his life, my little boy struggled, but damnit, I was/ am determined. My kid is 2 now. Such a sweet, funny, loving, HEALTHY, little man. I'll be damned if I let anything harm him. HE is a survivor... but am I?
Why am I telling you all of this?
Well... it has a lot to do with my fight for 2A Awareness and Education.
In the news, we hear all of the bad things that are happening with the "Gun Control" debate. We voice our concerns, but as Pro 2A, "Gun Nuts," we are immediately put into a category of the ignorant, the loveless, the deplorable, and just a bunch of MAGAts. To the Gun Controller's logic: "We don't care about our country, the people, or even our children because we are too preoccupied with shining up our firearms." I don't remember shining my firearms at all, during the time that I was fighting for my child's life. Nor do I do such while raising him, now. Hmmmm… Because we have not felt pain, in a way that only "Gun Violence Survivors" and their supporters have, we have no say in the ways of how the nation is ran on the matters of our deepest feels. We are just a bunch of heat packing heathens with no heart. Of course I take that personally. I look at my toddler son's sweet little face and think to myself, "I'd do anything to protect him. LITERALLY... ANYTHING!"
So, what is a "survivor?"
I've been through a lot in my life. Seen some crazy things. Lost a lot of folks I love dearly.
Am I a survivor?
A survivor of grief, maybe... but a survivor of the actual tragedy... No. I feel there's a misconception in the world as to what Survival really is. We see folks coming from really horrible situations, such as life threatening illnesses, crazy acts of nature, and overcoming some sort of horrible injury- THESE FOLKS ARE SURVIVORS. I most definitely include those who've been directly associated, such as our deployed Military Men and Women... or those who barely escaped with their life to a certain event, as survivors (so don't misconstrue my words). Those who fall at a loss to those things... sadly enough, are the VICTIMS. Those who were merely there, to see such atrocities... they are the WITNESSES. I have to argue this stance a bit, because I find it sad and odd in today's society, the idea of what a "Survivor" is, is actually very bias. You're only a survivor in society's eyes, as long as you agree with a certain way of thinking. The 2A Movement is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.
2/14/2018... My dad would've been 66 years old. Valentine's Day was his birthday. Aint that something? On that same day, tragedy struck the nation, as a high school in Parkland, Florida suffered the loss of 17 lives. Since then, I have witnessed a base of confusion as to what a "Survivor" really is. I've watched families of those lost, go through the same emotions I did when my dad died. The agony. The pain. THE ANGER.
I've watched people come together for good, logical solutions in order to heal, only to be mainstreamed and overrun by those who want to remind folks of the loss. DAILY. Not to discredit tragedies of the like, that have happened prior, but Loss is Loss, right?
I've watched as those who were greatly injured... SURVIVORS... be used BY THE MEDIA, to push for political bias- against the wants and views of the actual survivor.
I've also watched... we've all watched... and what sickens me most... those who bore witness to that day, using their affiliation to the tragedy to gain influence, popularity, jobs, status, educational opportunities, etc... as they continue to force a "one way" narrative in the faces of onlookers.
I think about those who lost their lives that day. I wonder how the media would've portrayed their stances if they had of survived. What opportunities would they have been given? What so-called grassroots organization would've used them to profit off of, for political gain? Would they get a free ride to an Ivy League University on a crappy S.A.T. score? Would they be modeling for fashion lines?
I think about the families of those lost. I see many in the spotlight, "making waves" to bring awareness to "Gun Violence." I see the families of those who disagree with these stances, looking for more logical and "easier" solutions, be dragged through the mud as they try to find closure... as they try to make a difference that is based off of COMMON ground ideals. I can only imagine what would've happened, when my mother, a nurse, fought to bring awareness to Heart Disease and Stress Related issues within the workforce of civil servants- that was a variable in my father's passing... how people that disagreed with her when she said that heart related illnesses are the number one silent killer of the world, would've responded. Fortunately, mostly everyone agreed with her and LOGICAL & ADAPTABLE changes were made.
I, personally, understand the fear that kids are facing today. I know loss. I know what it feels like to watch something that was such a habit on a daily basis... not be there anymore. I know what it's like to be afraid for my life... considering my father died of heart disease, and it also runs on my mother's side... I could fall victim to it one day, as well. Any day, actually. There's no running from it. When I lost my dad at 18yrs old, being that I jogged with him most days, I stopped jogging because I didn't want to got that way. I thought it was the issue. An overworked heart, plus possible heart disease... I was afraid. So, I totally get the fear and how it drives the thinking of these kids, nowadays. The one thing I've realized, is that fear is also something that keeps you from doing and becoming what you're meant to be. To be a product of fear, or a promoter of it... it ends up being a waste of time... a waste of a life. I choose not to be afraid and I choose to make sure myself, my family, and anyone I can inspire to take the same steps that I have in taking the upper hand in overcoming FEAR.
Then again... I'm just some NUTTY GUN LOVER! What the hell do I know?