When I left for my mission, I was convinced at least one my father’s parents would die before I returned. I have a few journal entries where I discuss how sad I would be, that I should write them more and how grateful I was for them. They both were there when I got home, both were at my wedding. My grandfather died in 2004. My grandmother is still alive and in decent health.
My mothers parents always seemed much younger than my fathers. The Cartys have looked pretty much the same since I have know them while I remember the Merediths with naturally dark hair and wrinkle free faces. Sadly, both of them are now dead. My grandfather died of cancer in 2010. My grandmothers funeral was this past weekend.
When my grandfather died, he had been ill for quite a while and there was a sense of relief along with a feeling of grief. His funeral was difficult as he was a difficult man to understand. Contrast that to the funeral this weekend where the atmosphere was almost joyful. My grandmother had deteriorated very rapidly. She suffered from dementia and many physical ailments but her passing was quiet, quick and merciful. I cant quite put my finger on why this funeral seemed so less sorrowful than that of my grandfather. To be clear, it wasn’t that people were happy my grandmother was dead. There were plenty of tears and heavy hearts. There was just more laughter, more happiness in the company of family and friends. People did not appear heavy with grief. I don’t mean this as an accusation. More an observation.
The first funeral I remember in detail was for my great uncle. It was 1987 and I had just turned 17. The death was unexpected, at least for me. He was young enough, just in his 60’s and I remember being quite shocked to hear of his passing. My family went to the funeral and i vividly remember my heavy heart and tears. We had not been particularly close but I always liked and admired him. I could not understand the extent of my sadness, though it passed soon after the funeral was over.
I realize how fortunate I had been to not have experienced the death of someone closer to me. Some of my friends had lost parents or siblings. A few had lost close friends. I had only had this one death and I was near 20.
Of course the older I have become, the less fortunate I have been. I have still experienced much less death than some I know, but I have had my fair share. I have come to recognize that what I grieve for is usually lost possibility. I grieve for myself and what I will miss out on, the experiences I will not have.
When I was attending the University of Utah, a close friend of mine was murdered. It was a random act of violence committed by someone looking for money. The unexpected and violent nature of her death affected me a great deal. I couldn’t sleep and found myself obsessing about her-What had she experienced and did she know what was about to happen? It was hard to comprehend how any of this could have happened. I would imagine her sitting in her room, studying for the test she had the next day, then hearing the commotion out in the other room (It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that the 911 tapes were released and I heard her final words). I made myself sick with fear and anger. I fully expected to suffer the same fate and would be up nights, scared at ever sound. It was months before I felt safe again; years before I stopped missing her.
When someone we care for dies, grief can be overwhelming. We spend nearly every waking moment thinking of the person, remembering stories or events. Often it is just an image of the person that remains constant in our minds. Hearts feel almost too heavy and it is easy to wonder how we will ever get through it.
Then somehow we begin to think on them a little less. Soon days go by without a thought of them, then weeks-months-maybe a year. Recovery is forgetting. Forgetting is relief.
Somehow after enough time passes, the thoughts bring less pain. Though sometimes, when memories sneak up on me, catch me unprepared, I feel guilty. In order to live my life, to move on, I have had to forget them, think of them less, which sometimes feels like a betrayal.
Well this has been a bit of a ramble, but conversations about death often are.