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Pick up the newspaper on any given day and there’s sure to be something about death, whether in the obituaries or the national news following one school shooting after another. The grim reaper doesn’t discriminate against the young or old, sick or healthy. I’ve had to say goodbye to many people and beloved pets throughout my brief time here and have probably been to more funerals than weddings and baby showers combined. It’s not fair.

Each person deals with grief differently though, so I won’t pretend to know how others feel after the death of a loved one. I just know how it felt for me after my mom died of cancer. I struggled to keep it together on the surface only to unleash the floodgates when I was safely alone and sob until my eyes were dry and I couldn’t make any sound. I would wonder, ‘Why hasn’t the rest of the world realized that my life has been jerked to a standstill? How can everyone else go along in their day-to-day lives as though nothing changed?’ It’s not like the death of a celebrity, when people mourn as one and reflect on the individual’s lifetime accomplishments. Who’s going to remember what a great artist my mother was or the way her voice sounded when she would call me and my sister by our nicknames?

I’ve also been there when others have lost loved ones, friends and family members, as they attempt to drown their sorrows with alcohol in hopes it will help dull the pain, only for it to come back in full force later on. Grief is felt in waves, and while some days might be more bearable than others, it never completely disappears, no matter how much time has passed.

Something I began considering after my mom’s death in 2014 was the difference between a sudden death versus a steady decline in health. Which is better? On one hand, you wouldn’t have to worry about anything if you died without warning in a car crash. However, on the other, you might be able to complete unfinished business, say goodbye to those you care about and discuss your wishes for burial or cremation if you knew you were dying.

Two recent sudden deaths that occurred locally are those of John Hamilton and Keith Solmo in two very separate instances but instances that reached many corners of the community nevertheless.

The elderly Hamilton was shot by police outside of his apartment while likely suffering from dementia. This news upset me because I lived in the apartment next to Hamilton on North Coconino Avenue for a brief period. He seemed nice enough, introduced himself to me shortly after I moved in when I was locking my bike up one day and would ring my doorbell to ask permission to walk past my back window when he needed to adjust his cable dish.

As for Solmo, I may not have known him personally, but one of our account executives had the chance to call him a good friend, and I know several people who worked with him at the Green Room. The condolences that showed up on my Facebook feed after his unexpected death painted a picture of someone who was excited about life and always there for others.

Some people may say it’s too morbid to talk about death, but I don’t think so, especially not when it’s something that is felt by every single person in the world at one time or another. Count yourself lucky if you haven’t yet had to process the level of grief that comes with death, but don’t be afraid to discuss the intricacies of it at the same time; write up a will, think about how you want to be remembered and tell people you love them before it’s too late, because time isn’t guaranteed for anyone.

MacKenzie Chase is a staff writer for Flagstaff Live! and the Arizona Daily Sun. 


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