Early last Wednesday morning my grandmother was found, she had passed away in her sleep sometime during the night. Her death wasn't unexpected. She was ill and had been for a long time...and even though you are expecting a death, it still feels unexpected when it actually happens.
I think that I have cried more for her passing than my grandfather and my uncle put together. But these haven't been tears of regret, but more tears of relief. I think that I am finally able to mourn them all.
When Uncle Don died it was the end of the semester, Mr.3 was just starting to get squirrely with the fateful forged loan check, my grandpa was shutting down and all I wanted to do was fix things for my family.
When my Grandfather died (five months later) my father was out of a job, Jimmy had been moved up to my house to finish out school, Mr. 3 was in jail, and my mom was valiantly trying to hold herself together after a grueling month of taking care of my grandfather before he died. All I wanted to do was fix things for my family.
But there is only so much that I could fix. I lived in a constant state of anxiety, feeling obligated to hold up my entire family (and Mr.3)....all the while I was crumbling inside. Realistically I never had time to mourn either of them. And it was heartbreaking watching my grandmother mourn someone that she couldn't fully remember anymore.
I didn't go to the funeral although I wanted to. My parents kept saying that it was "too much" citing that my car wouldn't make the trip. And while I think that was a really lame excuse for making me feel like I shouldn't come. Instead of letting it fester, I did confront my mom with it. There was no satisfying answer, but the mere fact that I even addressed it with her was huge. At least to me it is. There has been so many little injustices that I have felt in my life that I have just kept quiet about, just let fester and burn.....speaking out was huge for me. And when it comes down to it, it was "too much for me to handle"....not for my car, but for me. I've been a wreck since I found out on Thursday afternoon (please note, she was found Wednesday morning and my step-aunt didn't bother to get around to telling us until late Thursday afternoon). I've been exhausted and emotionally frayed. And for once.....I really wasn't physically able to make the long haul emotional drive in the middle of the night for someone who wasn't there. I did that once trying to find Mr.3 in Denver...and it was awful. Trying to do the same thing for someone who I have felt that I have lost years ago would have been lunacy.
I have never really had any strong inclinations about the afterlife. For the most part I figure that I'll find out when I get there....and as long as I have been a good and decent person in this life, things can't really be that bad in the next, if there is one.
Since my Uncle passed away in 2006, my life has gone through alot of turmoil. And each of the terrible things that I have experienced cannot be dealt with individually but as a whole.....and so it would make sense that I would be experiencing all this grief now. When you look at the stages of grief they go in cycles, and cycle out until the pain is gone. First, there is denial...and well, there is alot about the whole Mr.3 saga that fits under that category. Second, anger (uh, yeah!), the third is bargaining.....there has been alot of that. The fourth level has been depression....another checkbox there. And the fifth level is acceptance. I read an article that separated out the fifth step into three parts: the upward turn, reconstruction and working through, and acceptance and hope. And I think that my feet are planted firmly within stage five. In fact, when I saw Esther today, I realized that I could move on without her. I actually got up to leave almost 15 minutes before the end of my session. When she asked me why, I told her that I didn't really have anything else to say. I'm sad and that's ok. I don't want to talk about my grief but just cry to get that emotion out of my system. I don't wish for my grandmother (or even my grandfather and uncle for that matter) back. I am sorry that she is gone, but I don't feel abandoned. And even though the old drama between my aunt and my mom threatens to resurface again with the finalization of the trust...I don't even care about it. Because I can't fix it, and I shouldn't have to. I've offered what I can emotionally and physically and said where I have to draw the line. This is big. So big that every word that I could look up in the thesaurus for big wouldn't be able to describe the enormity of it.
I realize that very little of this post has been about my grandmother....but honestly....when we grieve are we grieving for the person or ourselves? Similar to the case of my grandfather, I wasn't able to have any mementos of my grandmother, and I am now on the lookout for a stainglass hummingbird decal for my window. When I was little, Grandma had just cleaned the stained glass window (leaving the screen door back) and had told me that the kids next door were waiting in the backyard to play with me. She told me that I could go out and play but not to run in the house. Being the little kid that I was, and seeing what looked like an open door, I only heard "backyard" "play" and "run". The result of which was me shattering the glass door and a permanent scar on my head. From then on, Grandma had hummingbird decals on the windows so that I would realize that the door was in fact- closed. Finding something similar would be a fitting memento of her.
As to memories of her, I like to think of her when I visited last just after my uncle's death. My grandfather was inconsolable, and Grandma and I had banded together to goof off and have a bit of fun to relax away from my brooding grandfather. We had gone for a walk in her neighborhood, did lots of giggling....and when we came back my Grandpa was in the living room talking seriously with my mom. Grandma had sat on the arm of the sofa...I can still remember how her feet looked in her slippers. As we were sitting there, she kept slipping backwards onto the sofa...finally she just let go of the arm and slided onto the couch with a little "wheee!". It was so unexpected. Grandma and I were trying to hold in the giggles because of the tenseness of Grandpa...and then....he let out this belly laugh. A laugh that I hadn't heard since I was a little kid. It was a moment of levity and closeness in the face of immense sadness...and that is how I wish to remember her...
Goodbye Grandma Ellie, I love you.