What to do when a loved one passes away
I lost my grandmother back in 2004, I was in college at the time and had to hear about it over the phone from my dad. My mother was too beside herself to speak to me about it. Grandma had been battling an aggressive brain tumor that had come back after a few years reprieve post-chemo. Unfortunately due to the nature of the cancer and the chemo, it caused conversations with her to be rather all over the place and hard to follow. It was as though she had dementia due to the effect the tumor was having on her brain.
This was the first death I experienced in my life, other than our family dog who also passed away that year while I was away learning. My mother had to deal with both of these deaths predominantly on her own and she did not take it very well. I remember bouts of sobbing and trying to make sense of it with her when I would come home to visit for a weekend. I didn’t know what to make of it myself most of the time, I just knew that I wouldn’t be seeing my grandmother anymore and that that was a weird thought to have.
I suppose it’s a bit lucky that growing up, my family lived away from my grandparents, usually on one side of the country or the other while they lived smack dab in the middle. This made it so that yearly or sometimes twice yearly visits were all that were possible. Still, my grandmother was very much a part of my life and when I was at the funeral service, I remember breaking down and trying to hold it together while people gave readings in her honor. I remember seeing all of these people that had known her, some most of her life, and thinking “wow, my grandmother knew so many people and had so many friends”. I truly had no idea because you rarely think of your family members as anything but their titles, and as a kid you mostly assume they are just sitting by the phone waiting for you to entertain them or drop by. Not that they are functioning adult people who have lives outside of yours. I’ve been a little consumed by the notion of the more friends you have, the more people who will show up for your funeral. I sometimes think about A Christmas Carol and how no one wanted to show up for Ebenezer Scrooge’s funeral service, unless they were perhaps paid and fed. That would be awful I think, and so one of my life’s goals it to ensure I am missed!
Back to Grandma though, I recently visited her gravesite, nearly 12 years after watching the casket lowered into the ground and throwing my own clump of moist earth over the wood veneer, crying softly as I did so; I saw the space in the grass next to her as I stood beside the man who would go there. My grandfather, who recently has had his own health issues and may be there with her sooner than later. It was an odd experience I think, to know that someone you love is gone and yet a part of them exists right here with us; as you stand next to a person who may not be for this world much longer and is seeing their own grave site.
I am many years away from this scenario but I can only imagine it will be bizarre when I get there.