Monday, November 12, 2012

Grieving and Death

It was sad, of course. Funerals are sad.

We cried, not for our own sorrow and pain. Watching her sisters stand over her open casket; watching her sons and daughters (our aunts and uncles) huddle near the simple pine box, looking over her; our cousin, young son in her arms, the questions on his face, her having to explain death. Explain that Great-Grandma was sleeping, a forever sleep.

We cried for them, the immeasurable pain they must feel. The memories that must have been going through their mind, a lifetime of them. She was the oldest child in her family, he sisters don't remember a day of life without her, and of course nor do her children. All those memories, it's all that is left.

Dad took us to the casket, with his arms around us, said he'd read what we wrote about Grandma the other day, and he said it was really good. We stood looking at her, and so many thing go through our head. She didn't look like grandma, not really. Skin smooth, no more black and blue shades of old age of her, she looked in a way we had never seen her. We shed a few tears, remembering the smells of bacon cooked in a cast-iron pan on a wood stove and peculated coffee, exactly what Grandma's house smelled like all the time; Grandma's letters sent no matter where you were in the world; quilts she made each of her Grandchildren for graduation, always so proud to show you her progress, hoping she'd complete them before the big day, some years that meant up to four of them; photos of her flowers, and Grandpa's garden produce, always happy to show a visitor. Always coffee ready, food to be eaten, and love to be given.

Now she's gone.

It was a long day, there was crying all around, of course, and lots of laughing. There is always lots of laughing in our family. She went to be with Grandpa, if you are a believer, and so how is that not a joyous occasion.

Not really sure the proper way to grieve, collectively. When Grandpa passed there was spontaneous bouts of sobbing; but his death was sudden, and unexpected, and Grandma's was a long progression to the pearly gates. Perhaps there is no consistent way to grieve, the passing of each person is just...different, and so each case is met with different feelings and ways to get past them. We don't remember grieving for our maternal grandparents.

We didn't attend our maternal grandmothers' funeral, it was many years ago. We were her only granddaughter, only one of three grandchildren. We are ashamed to say we didn't like her. She was never nice, she was mean, and angry, she went almost a whole lifetime with un-medicated and undiagnosed mental illnesses; it wasn't until later in life she was diagnosed with disorders like OCD and schizophrenia. Maybe it wasn't always her fault that she was the way she was, but it left an impression on some of us that prevented us from feeling any real grief. She lived across the field from us for at least 10 years of our life, yet we barely knew much about her, other than she wasn't very nice, she was quick to anger, and didn't seem very nice or loving to Grandpa. It probably makes us a bad person in some people's eyes to write these things. So we'll stop.

Grieving and death. Does everybody deserve the same kind of regard in passing? After all, everybody dies, nobody is special in that. Some people die with nary a soul caring; homeless people, convicts, recluses, people considered generally bad, people with nobody, thousands in impoverished countries, and some of probably just as wonderful people, if not more, than those highly regarded in death. Some die and everybody seems to care; movie stars, beloved family members, children, affluent people. Who decided the level of respect, and grief, that anybodies death receives. Or is it a case of grieving for the sake of grieving.

Guess that last paragraph was...don't know...strange. The older a person gets, the closer they get to the end. Having had near-death experiences...maybe some of us are just desensitized, or maybe we're refusing to grieve...or maybe we have no idea what we are talking about and it's all going to come crashing down.

All we know is that when we write about her, we cry, and that might just be the only way we know how to grieve.

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