I was born in the mountains of North Carolina and grew up on a small farm with my grandparents. All of my family were members of the local Baptist Church. My grandfather passed away when I was five. His passing was sudden and extremely painful for me. During the funeral, the entire family was eerily calm. As I grew older, my grandmother always told me not to mourn the passing of loved ones, since they were in a better place. Death was an almost weekly occurrence on the farm as the animals were always being harvested for consumption or dying for various reasons.
When I turned 18, I left home like most of the youth in the mountains, and I found adventures in the U.S. Army. After my enlistment, I settled in Florida and entered a new career in law enforcement with a mid-sized police department. There wasn’t a death in the family for 14 years when my grandmother passed away from pneumonia.
My grandmother had chronic pneumonia, something she contracted as a child and never fully recovered from. My grandmother had been in and out of the local hospital for several years and had a quadruple bypass which left her in nursing home.
One Monday in April 2001, my family called to let me know my grandmother had “taken a turn for the worse” and was in the hospital and she wasn’t expected to make it. I rushed back to Western N.C. When I arrived at the hospital, the doctors told me she had maybe a week to live and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her.
The family decided we didn’t want her to suffer. The family decided to put my grandmother in a medically induced coma until she passed away. It was a long long 5 days until she died.
When she finally passed, I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was glad her suffering was over and on the other hand, I missed her and felt guilty because she was gone. I took some private time away from the family to reflect on the events of my life and the passing of my grandmother.
I remembered her telling me how she would be in a better place and not to mourn her death. After a day or two replaying the conversations, I had with my grandmother over the years, I let my guilt go and decided to celebrate her life and not be a “stick in the mud.”
Our conversations have served me well as I advanced through my career in law enforcement. I have been the first responder to numerous deaths ranging from a natural death to homicide. I always try to treat the deceased and their survivors with respect and dignity. It has helped me calm the family and bring a sense of calm to everyone.
Jeff Watson 2011