Breaking Bad News…

The current Schlock Mercenary story elements that revolve around “breaking bad news” are a direct outgrowth of my own experience with this. In October of 1986 my father called me while I was at college to tell me my mother had been killed in a car accident. In August of 1988 my grandmother called me while I was working as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to tell me that my father had died from a heart attack.

I’ve ruminated a lot since then about how bad news is best broken. I chuckle about it. I sniffle about it. I write speculative fiction in which people do exactly the right, or exactly the wrong things, at least within the fictionalized constraints of the Universe I’ve conjured up for your entertainment. I’ve wondered how I would handle things if I needed to break bad news to someone, and suspect I’d do badly.

This evening my brother Bill called me to tell me that my grandmother passed away today. It was sudden, but not exactly unexpected. Yes, this is the magnificent lady I went to visit this summer, and whose life (I’m told by those in whose care she’s been) I saved by showing up and dragging Bill and Randy (randytayler) along with me. She’d been on the edge this fall, her hearing went out completely, and she was hospitalized recently in an effort to restore it. It worked, but they discovered she was dehydrated, so they kept her for observation, and that meant they got to observe her final minutes today. Apparently they were quiet ones.

Two things emerge from this tale:

  1. I’m really, really glad I saw her this summer. She got well enough to fly out to visit us in August, and got to sleep through one of my Sunday School lessons. She was well enough, barely, to see all the grandkids in the flesh one last time. For this I’m very, very thankful.
  2. There’s a pattern here I don’t like. Dad told me Mom died. Grandma told me Dad died. Bill told me Grandma died… I think this means that Bill is next.

Bill, if you’re reading this, you can break the curse! The Red Sox won, and Bush beat the Redskins’ prediction, and those were both THIS YEAR! Just don’t go doing anything dumb, like running red lights or eating that poisonous fish they serve in Japan. Don’t go to Japan! For that matter, don’t even get on an airplane!

p.s. If you’re an immediate member of the Tayler family, and you are finding out about Grandma Vernon’s death via my Live Journal, it’s Bill’s fault. He TRIED to reach you, but only got your answering machine. He figured “Hey, you know that ‘beeeeeep’ noise your answering machine makes? Grandma did that today, only longer” was not an appropriate use of the technology. Smart kid, that Billy. Pity about the Japanese fish, though.

19 thoughts on “Breaking Bad News…”

  1. Heartfelt sympathies

    I would like to extend my most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to you, Howard, and to the entire Tayler family.

    She sounded like a great person, and you’re lucky to have had the time to be with her this summer. I’m sure it made her incredibly happy.

    Which reminds me – I’ve still got both grandmas… I should go see ’em.

    Take care.

  2. Assuming they haven’t heard yet, I will tell my family after I get off work (midnight shift). Being a mom to multiple generations is a pretty neat trick.

  3. Hey Howard,

    Sounds like you’re taking this reasonably well. As someone who is without either grandmother, I know what it is like to lose one. You have my well wishes, thoughts, and prayers during your time of loss.


  4. Condolences on your loss – I never got to know mine that well, but that’s the price you pay for moving overseas. Still, she sounded like quite a lady.

    You may want to suggest to your brother Bill that he lay off the chupaquesos for a while, however, on top of avoiding the fugu.

  5. You have my deepest condolences for the loss of your grandmother.

    On the other hand, I give you a 9 out of 10 for well times use of humor during a stressful situation for the PS at the end.

  6. I’m not sure I’ve posted here before, but this struck home because in the past three years I’ve lost 3 of my 4 grandparents. So I treasure my surviving grandmother, because at age 85, I know she won’t be around for a significant time. She’s still sharp as a tack, mentally, but the body can do only so much. I can only hope she holds on long enough for my own kids (preschool-age) to build up memories of their great-grandmother.

    My sympathies to you and your family. ^_^ And I’m glad you got to spend some time with her recently.

  7. My condolences to you and your family, Howard. I know firsthand how important it is to spend time saying goodbye, and I’m glad that you had the opportunity this once. At the time, it changed my whole appreciation of friendship and life, and I try to make sure that my friends and family know how important they are to me, so I won’t miss a chance to have closure.

  8. ‘s grandmother died two weeks ago. We were told she had 6 months then 2 weeks later that suddenly turned in to 6 days and we scrambled for plane tickets and passports but there was enough time. She did not get to meet our daughters but at least she did get to talk to them on the phone on her 90th birthday (summer of 2002) and got to meet her other great-granddaughters.

    About conveying bad news, asking if someone is sitting down is a sure tip-off. Sometimes necessary but still a shock when you hear it. That’s how the friend who got a hold of me first told me about ‘s motorcycle accident. I was very unhappy because she did NOT immediately follow that with “he’s still alive.” She had to tell me about the accident before she told me that he was in surgery to save his legs. All I cared about hearing was that he was alive and was going to continue living.

  9. My Condolences.

    I had a similar experience when we lost my grandmother to cancer. We were lucky enough to get the whole family together to say goodbye on the last day she was able to appreciate it. It made a big difference after loosing grandpa without being able to say goodbye.

    Keep to the faith and be happy in the knowledge that she rests with God now.


  10. My condolences on your grandmother.

    And if Bill dies, *please* don’t be the one to go around breaking the news about it! I’d hate for you to be next on the list.

  11. I remember reading about your trip to see your Grandmother earlier this year. Sounds like she’s a very remarkable soul. 🙂

    Take care, Howard.

  12. Give them the flowers now…

    She sounded like a great lady, this brings back some nice memories of my nan, nanny piano as my kids called her, she always had a piano in the house and the kids loved to play (I use the term loosely) it when ever we would visit. I was pleased to here you got to spend time with her, I regret not going to see my Granddad when he was ill, he passed away without be being able to say goodbye, you would think I would have learnt but this happened again when my farther-in-law was ill with cancer, the hospital was full of closer relatives so I stood back thinking I can see him tomorrow, but again I missed the chance.
    We never know what’s around the corner, give them the flowers now.

    Best wishes

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