Grieving the death of someone close will be one of the hardest things you will ever do. When I was younger, death was something in movies and books. Death was your dog dying or flushing your fish. Death was an uncle passing that you didn’t really know and having to go to the funeral. You saw your parents upset but did not really understand.
As we get older and fully understand how and why people die, you question yourself during and after situations, ‘if I just would have gone to see him more often’ or ‘if I would have taken the keys.’ Most people only have to learn this lesson once before they start to put in the effort with those close to them. But that first time burns in your heart every day for the rest of your life.
This past year I lost two grandparents a month apart. One I was very close too and was at peace with my relationship when he passed. The other, I regret not putting in the effort.
The family was notified that she would not live much longer and that we should call and say goodbye. Living out of state, most of us had to call. I remember dialing the number and staring at my phone before I hit send. What do I say to someone for the very last time? It was one of the most uncomfortable needed conversations I have ever had. There were no harsh words or condescending tones. There was acceptance and love and that made it worse. If she was mad at me I would have been able to accept that. But she was ok with her fate, her life and was ready to see what came next. I was sad I didn’t take the time with her to get to know the person she was. I don’t know about her childhood, jobs she had, her first love or her biggest passions.
Recently, one of my colleagues mother passed away. While I never met her, all I could think about was the deep pit you feel when you are about to lose a loved one. You second guess every decision you ever made and hope it was good enough. You hope they are proud of you and regret nothing. That they are not in any pain and if they are, that you could take it from them. Because any pain they have after everything they have already been through is not fair.
I reached out to him like most people do. You know they will never lean on you but you tell them anyway. Maybe because it breaks your heart that someone else has to feel this unbearable pain too. But, you do know how they are feeling and sometimes talking to someone about their loss brings understanding and a bond that, in a deranged way, brings comfort.
While the pain will never go away, the suffering does end. You learn to get up in the morning a little quicker and adjust to things in a new but darker light. The sadness never ceases but you are forced to continue on; to keep breathing and keep moving forward. Songs bring tears regardless of who you are in front of or where you are. Or walking through a store and someone smells like them and you lose your breath and can’t think. Driving down the road and you see someone wearing a similar outfit, walking the same way or wearing the same hat and you stop. Knowing clearly well that it is not them but maybe dreams do come true and you can’t take the chance on ‘what if you didn’t check.’ So you turn around to get a good look, only to exhale the deepest breath, because you forgot to breathe and now you cry because it also wasn’t them.
Nothing is ridiculous when you lose someone. You spray their cologne to remember. Wear their sunglasses because now you see through their eyes. Set a place setting with utensils. Getting rid of clothes is painful but you save a few special things.
Do they become your guardian angel? Maybe. I think they save a few ‘lives’ to use when you are being an idiot and need a second or third chance. They make you break a little faster or get in to see the doctor sooner than you would have if they were still around.
Remember when there was that one time you heard your name but no one said it ?It was them, just calling down to ask how you’ve been. They are in the crisp perfect fall mornings, the breeze by the beach. You can see their smile in the first snow and hear them calling your name in a wishing well. They are the reason you quit smoking, drinking and driving, eating red meat or being a shitty person.
It never gets easier, it becomes a constant to adapt too. The tears come for different reasons later on. The child they didn’t get to meet, the wedding that is missing a vital piece, the holiday that will never be the same or the call that won’t be coming.
They become a legend that did no wrong. Only the good times are remembered and repeated during conversations.
Eventually there becomes a peace with the death. The hole is never filled but it does not burn like it used too. The notion that you will be reunited again is often revisited. What will it be like? Will they recognize me right away, will I look the same?
There is no pain there and there is also a forever.