Death is weird. It's inevitable. Everything dies and yet no one is prepared for that loss. You can "prepare yourself", but does anyone really know what that kind of grief means or looks like, and all that it entails?
When someone you love dies it hurts, to say the least. They take to the grave a metaphorical piece of your heart. Their passing leaves an open wound adjacent to the beautiful lasting impression they made on your life. You can simultaneously be relieved that their suffering is over, joyful that they made it home to heaven, angry that they had to go, begrudged at the paradox of life and death, confused by the circumstances, overwhelming abandonment, regret... The emotions are deep and complex.
In death's newness, it's a flood of emotions at any given time on any given day. The scent of a cologne, the thought of their smile, a phrase, a food. Grief sours holidays for some. Entire months for others. A cloud can hang over that calendar day for years to come. For some the heartache fades over time bringing meaning to the phrase "time heals" - eventually they remember the day after "the day".
My grandpa, "Herbie", I knew only during childhood. He loved minestrone soup and chef's salads. He loved baseball, camping, and other outdoor activities. He gave everyone a hard time and thought you were bonding if you were "debating". Arguing aside, he loved people. He was one of those "swell guys" that would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.
I was there when he died of a heart attack in the late 90's. Ten or so years-old and I remember the whole scene it like it was yesterday. That was my first taste of death and grief. Grandma Betty still has the poem I wrote and read on stage at his memorial service - framed on her nightstand. I still think of him when I make a pot if minestrone.
Another grandfather, "Pipa", died of lung cancer on April 24th, 2008. Fortunately, I was able to spend a week with him and my grandma, Roni, before he left us. I was able to help and mostly just sit and talk with him. He wasn't ever really one to talk of any depth, at least not with me. For all that isn't spoken I usually feel and just "know". That man had a vibrancy in his eyes. He was proud of his family and his life. His family was his world. He bantered with my grandma but in his eyes I could see that he immensely respected and adored that small but fierce woman...
We shared a love for sweets. Grandma would buy him a bag of those Frosted Circus Animals and he'd hide them in the side pocket of his chair. I'm not sure, but I think I was the only person he'd share them with. When I was young he would quietly open the bag and give me the pink ones while he ate the white ones. He always said it was because he knew pink was my favorite color. Years later I finally confessed I didn't care for pink to which he replied with a chuckle, "Of course it's not! I just think the pink ones taste funny so I have them to YOU to eat!". What a riot. That cookie company happens to be celebrating their 100th anniversary, so I tearfully bought a bag a few days ago. The cashier probably thought I was half crazy. Of course I ate only the white ones and gave the kids the pink ones.
Another grandma is slipping away as I write. Grandma "DooAnn" is in the final stage of an extremely rare form of neuropathy. It's just not fair (here comes that emotial flood)... She is the cookie baking and caramel making grandma. She loved to garden and make homemade pickles. She is everything you picture a grandma to be. She is sugar, spice, and everything nice.
Her body has betrayed her and she has had to watch it deteriorate around her with no way to stop it. At first we prayed for a miracle and for God to heal her. There were indeed miracles woven in the story. -But in the end, it's just her time now. So the prayer now is for her and my grandpa to find peace in the storm in order to "prepare themselves" as best they can, and ultimately for her to just let go so she can leave the pain and enter into God's fullness. To that we will rejoice for her, but like all the greats do - she will leave a hole in our hearts. This one will be fresh and raw for a while.
Life can feel long, but it's not. Enjoy the blessings and times of plenty. Be present. Live intentionally. Love well. End well.