My father called me yesterday afternoon. I knew, the instant he said my name, what he was going to tell me, that my Grandma had died.
It suddenly flashed before me that my father must have had a similar sudden burst of knowledge when Mom called to tell him about Teddy’s death.
A week ago, she fell and broke her hip, a difficult thing for any elderly person, but for someone whose systems were being kept going by so many medications, a truly scary one. They took her off of her blood thinners to prepare for surgery, and her lungs struggled, which made her heart struggle, and her kidneys struggled, too. Finally the decision was made that, instead of trying for surgery, they would manage her pain and take care of her in hospice.
I wasn’t surprised. I am far too familiar with the importance of lungs, with the domino effect that can take place when any internal system falls. I wish humans had better fail-safes for our fragile physical components. I wish I could stop obsessing over lungs and breathing.
She was, so far as I can tell, in good spirits. She knew what was happening and wasn’t overwhelmed by fear. My family gathered around her, bringing her fruit smoothies, making her laugh, filling her last days with love.
Is it wrong that I am jealous, on my son’s behalf, of this? I’d give a lot to know that he had no fear, that he’d found comfort in our touch and voices, in our love.
She had a full, sometimes a too-full (in a prairie gothic sense) life. She raised five children, was a large part of the lives of eight grandchildren, met five of her great-grandchildren. She grew up without her own mother, who died when she was two. She survived rape and pregnancy as a teenager, she survived giving her firstborn up for adoption. She survived hard years when scraping a living from the farm wasn’t easy. She made harvest meals and danced and golfed and traveled. She mourned my grandfather, ten years ago. She was loving and imperfect and she will be missed. I miss her now, miss the way she used to call me “E,” miss the glint in her eye when she was winning at cards, miss the stories she told.
I miss her now, and I try not to compare the loss of her to the loss of my son, but it’s hard to do. The grief doesn’t cut and burn in the same way. I find that I was bracing for something huge, and this grief is quieter, more peaceful, less vivid. I will travel home for the funeral and cry there, and I will also smile at the way my daughter cheers the hearts of my family. And I will come home a bit lonelier, but not shattered or fighting post-traumatic stress, or screaming at the universe.
She died the best death I can imagine – to meet the end of her life after more than 80 full years, with her wits intact, her family around her, with little pain and fear – I’m glad such a thing is still possible. And when I say glad, I really mean it, which creeps me out a bit.
I am starting to realize that I may see every loss in my life through the lens of Teddy’s loss, if every loss from now on will be an echo of his. My grief over my grandmother feels pale and watery, somehow. I feel guilty about not feeling more. But it’s not watery grief, not really. I keep reminding myself of this. It’s just not complicated, f- you-Universe, world-shattering, I-can’t-breathe grief. I think I’m grateful for that.