My Letter

I've met people on the worst days of their lives. And it usually involves death.

They have lost a loved one, either through a traffic accident or through intentional acts.

As a journalist, you have to keep a professional distance, and, sometimes that can numb you to the suffering of others. It's hard not to feel like a vulture when you have to question someone about the death of their loved one.

And yet, I've summoned all the courage and compassion that I could to make the experience more bearable.

I've seen two of my grandparents die.

I was with them when they died peacefully, in hospice care. They just stopped, with no fanfare. It was like a clock wound down.

I gave their eulogies - for them and my eldest cousin who died much too early.

I struggled to put into words the depth of feeling I had in my heart for them. But, as with anything, you just get up and do it.

Death is a part of life, and all things end. We came from the Earth & the Cosmos - and we will return to the Earth & Cosmos.

I don't believe in Hell, as a place where souls go to burn for the misdeeds in this life. The only Hell is the one we create here.

I am not sure of Heaven - but I know my relatives believed in Heaven as an eternal reward. Since they believed in Heaven, then they are there.

My mind may change later in life, and that is fine by me. What I do know is that my people have been in North Carolina for generations. And when they laid down to rest, they became a part of the red clay soil & of the beaches & mountains & long-leaf pines themselves.

And one day - I will join them.

- Ben McNeely

Ben McNeely, Journalist

This letter is part of the Death Letter Project - North Carolina, a means to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.


Michael Palko