September 20, 2010

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.



  1. I think I know what you mean. It really just is different, and I am also grateful it is not world-shattering this time. ((hugs))

  2. I absolutely understand and I felt this way just over 12 months ago when my 90 year old grandfather died. He died peaceful and happy in his bed with his family by his side. The perfect death, if there is such a thing.
    I was only 9 months out from Hope’s death, and it was the first funeral I had been to since. Like you, I was worried I wasn’t sad enough but again, I was looking at his death through the lens of Hope’s stillbirth. I think I will always feel this way now and it is not something I am overly happy about, but the loss of a baby really doesn’t compare to any other type of loss. It stands out there all alone.
    I’m so sorry about your grandmother.

  3. I am sorry your grandmother is not here with you anymore. I still miss mine everyday.

    I think this is ‘normal’ grief – the grief when people die in the ‘right’ order.

  4. So sorry about your grandma. But yes, every loss going forward is now through the lens of losing our son too.

  5. I am sorry to read of your grandmother’s death. I’m sure you will miss her deeply. What an interesting life she led.

    As Ya Chun says, perhaps this is ‘normal’ grief? A death that is anticipated?

  6. i am so sorry about your grandmother’s death. and also glad that your she had a full life and had all her loved ones around her. it is so different when a life is lived fully. definitely a normal kind of grief. so very different from the traumatic unexpected shocking loss of our babies.

    sending you love

  7. I’m so sorry for the loss of your Grandma. She sounds like a wonderful, strong, loving woman.

    I think it’s impossible not to see all subsequent death through the lens of child loss. It changes absolutely everything. I’m just very glad the pain isn’t as bad as you feared. Very glad for that.


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