Stories| A Retrospective Piece

Death. Lost. Tragedy. Death is one of the most traumatic events that occurs in the human experience. Death strikes like the viper. Fast, visceral, and powerful. The viper’s venom is potent upon its victim. It injects us with its toxins of despair and lost. It’s gripping effect chills our souls and offers us the sobering reality of our own fragility. When, we lose a loved one we feel it to the core of our being. Soul shaken. Heartbroken. Pain. Disbelief. All these emotions rack inside our spirit all at once. Nothing is the same, everything changes and we must grasp a new normal.

The deadly venom of the viper struck me back in 2017 when I lost someone core to me, my grandmother. My grandmother was a cornerstone of who I am as a person. She helped guide me and she saw me as few other people did. She saw into the core of my essence and believed that God had planned great and wonderful things for me. She in many ways was my best friend. I could laugh with her, learn from her, experience the past through her stories. So, the surprise lost to her came with devastation, sorrow, and pain.

On the day she passed away I didn’t know how to process her lost. My soul was in disarray. I just knew I had to find a focus and peace so I could continue at work. I found that focus in shooting. Shooting was a chance for me to focus on the target in front of me and block out all the noise, collect my thoughts, and regain my composure. The act of shooting was a lifeline to me…a lifeline that I needed at the time. This is a story of how shooting helped me through a difficult time in my life.

I remember the day like it was yesterday in my mind…the day my grandmother passed away. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to go to the gym. The moment I woke up she was heavy on my heart. Not in a negative way though. Just in a way that I should check in on her make sure she was still improving at the hospital. Let her hear my voice give her strength and confidence that all would be well. While I lifted she stayed strong in my thoughts. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the memories, lessons, and good times we enjoyed together. While I was working out I hit up my mom to make sure all was good with my grandma. She let me know she was doing okay making minor progress but doing better. With that reassurance I was able to put my mind at ease a little. I finished at the gym. Completed my normal morning routines usual.  The basics. Shower, eat, clean, and chill a little before work.

As, you can see nothing nefarious going on. Just a normal day. But, the viper was waiting for the appropriate time to strike. I head to work and do my thing. I work at a local firearms range in Vegas. The range is busier than a normal today. Slowly, I begin to get into my work groove and handling business as usual. Taking customers out to the range making sure they are safe and having fun shooting experience. Giving them proper weapon instruction and observing the whole time to make sure no shenanigans go down. I’m in the normal notes of my daily rhythm. I’m just doing me and enjoying my day at work. I had been stepping out when I had time to check my phone if anything had happened or changed. My grandmother was still heavy in my thoughts the whole day. When I had a chance to think about her I did. I didn’t understand why she was so heavy on my thoughts at that time. I said a quick prayer asking God to watch over her and continued my day. Low and behold did I know the next time I would check my phone would ruin my day.

It was around 6 p.m. my time around 9 p.m. EST when I was on break and I went to grab my phone. I see a notification from my mom on my phone. All it says, “Is call me as soon as you get this.” My heart begins to race, my mind starts to go a million miles per hour, and dread begins to seep into my existence.

I call my mother. She answers,“Hey Andrew are you somewhere you can talk? It’s about your grandmother.”

I  looked around I was currently alone in the locker room. I responded, “Yeah, my mom I am. What’s up?”

She takes a short pause, “Andrew your grandma passed away a couple of hours ago. I was coming in to stay with grandma for the night and let your Auntie go home to get some rest. I was there for maybe 15-20 mins. We talked and shortly after that she passed away.”

While listening to my mother’s story I was in shock. I didn’t know how to respond, act or feel. I was frozen with heartbreaking loss and sorrow. I want to cry but, I know now is not the moment or place. I try to gather my composure. While this is all going on in my mind I am still literally having a conversation with my mom.

She says, “Andrew. Andrew. Are you okay.”

I awake to the moment, “Yeah, mom. I’m good. I’m okay.”

Her voice softens and responds in motherly tone, “Drew, you know your grandmother loved you. I know you loved some Ms. Rose. Grandma was apart of your life for thirty-two years. Be thankful that you had her for as long as you did. Know that she is with God.”

My voice cracking with pain, “Yeah, mom I know.”

Now, I am pacing around the locker room not knowing how to act or respond. Just a deep sense of sorrow eclipsing my heart.

My mom breaks the silence again, “You okay, son?”

I respond, “Yeah, I’m fine mom. I gotta take a minute to process it all. That’s all.”

She responds, “Okay, if you need me. I’m a phone call away. Call me.”

I take a deep breath, “I know mom. I will call if I need anything.” Then, I hang up.

The next thing I remember is making a straight beeline for smoke pit so I can be by myself for a moment. I remember eyes being filled with tears unwilling to let them fall onto my face. It was so embarrassing to appear so weak. I know everyone will say that is okay to be weak in that moment. To live and show emotions. I remember one of the managers seeing me walking out and followed me to the smoke pit.

John taps me on the shoulder, “You alright?”

I turn to him with eyes full of tears and respond, “My grandmother just passed I need a moment.”

John responds, “Take as much time as you need. If you need to leave you can just let me know.”

I reply, “I’m good. I just gotta get my shit together and I’ll deal with this later.”

Then, James comes in and checks on me and gave me a big hug. A hug I so desperately needed at that moment and told me that everything would be good.

After that I go back into the locker room to try compose myself and to attempt to return to work. Yet, I can’t. Everytime, I wash my face and tears well up in my eyes all over again. I repeat this process a few times to no avail.

Mentally, I say, “Get your shit together Andrew so we can go back to work. Let’s focus up for the moment get through the rest of the day and go home and grieve.”

I don’t know what to do at this time. I’m just lost in my thoughts of losing my grandmother. That is all that possessed me.

So, as I am staring blankly into a mirror with my face soaked with water.

I say to myself, “I really wish I can shoot right now.”

Take a moment to focus on something else beyond the sadness brooding in my heart and thoughts. I wash my face one more time and I journey back into public with tears in my eyes. I grab a Glock 17 from the gun locker. I grabbed sixty rounds. I grab my PPE. I go onto the range I take the first lane away from all the customers and other RSO’s. I put up a target. I check the chamber of the Glock and load a magazine. I rack the slide. I look down my sights and I take a deep breath and I pull the trigger. Bang. Impact center, red of the target. I pull the trigger again the same. Then, again and again.

While I am shooting my thoughts are fixed on the news I just learned about no less than 30 minutes before. All my pain and sorrow was being released with every shot. With every shot I began to regain my composure. I thought about how my grandmother would want me to be strong. I could hear voice imploring me to be strong and be that rock she knew I was. That there is strength in being vulnerable. I thought of her love and joy. Her wisdom and knowledge. How blessed I was to have her. How she was my best friend. How the world lost a library of knowledge. All these things flowed through my mind as I shot. As, I continued to pull that trigger a peace started to gather in me. A reilisence stirred in my soul. That I will survive and all isn’t good right now but, it will be. That what was important takeaway of the moment.

After, I had finished those sixty rounds. Looked at my target and felt a sense of peace. I felt calm and collected enough to finish my day. I was able to gather my focus again. I was able to quiet my mind and reflect in a positive way. Every shot was a way for me to release that pain, frustration, and all my sorrow of the moment. Instead of beating a on locker, punching a wall, or  acting out in a negative way. I used those bullets to harness all my negative energy and expel them one round at a time.

People believe that shooting can only be done in certain constructs. Some shoot for self defense and home protection to defend themselves or loved ones. who may be in immediate danger. Others may enjoy hunting. As,a way to be bound with nature and humanity. Some shoot competitively to test their skills against others. Shooting, can also be used as an aid to expel negative energy from our lives to gain a peace and focus. For many it may be an amalgamation of all these things.  

With every round I shot that day I was expelling the pain, sorrow, and frustration of that moment. The lost of my grandmother was monstrous on my soul. It is a topic that I can’t broach without shedding tears even today. She was one of my cornerstones and her value on the man I am today can never be truly expressed with words.

I know there are posts, patches, and memes running around the internet about group therapy with a picture of shot grouping on a target. For many that holds true in the shooting sense and the literary sense. It is an therapeutic outlet at certain times in our lives. Shooting can be used as a positive outlet to release  negative energy. I know the day I lost my grandmother it was for me. It was the anti-venom I needed to cure bite of death from the deadly viper.

Thanks For Reading

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