Of Worms and Shadows

My maternal Grandpa died when I was two. Most of my early childhood memories are nebulous, at best. However, his death and the thoughts that boiled inside my mind are some of the most vivid memories I have of my early childhood.

Nobody explained to me what death meant, other than Grandpa was gone and I wouldn’t be able to see him again. I missed him dearly. At night, between fits of tears that called shadows to my crib, I’d contemplate what death felt like.

I wondered about whether it would only be my body that stopped working and my mind would remain trapped inside. If I were stuck inside my dead body forever, would I feel the worms eating me as I lay in the ground? Would I be able to talk to the other dead people in the ground next to me? Maybe death meant I’d wink right out of existence and everything that was me would just stop. I’d lay there blinking like a twisted “I Dream of Jeannie” as I tried to manifest what it would feel like to stop. Stop living. Stop breathing. Stop existing. Stop.

The thought of simply ending scared me and I’d whimper under my covers. The shadows around my bed would move and faces would materialize out of the darkness. I believed the faces were the worms, come to eat me. I believed I’d thought too hard about death and that my thoughts had conjured up the nothingness, come to take me away. Hiding under my covers, I’d cry as I thought about being stuck in a world of darkness where nobody could hear me.