I know it’s poor form to abandon a blog after only two posts, but I promise I have a good excuse or ten up my sleeve (and no, my dog did NOT eat my blog… even if I had a dog I imagine blogs taste something like a cross between a person’s innermost thoughts and keyboard germs, uh, soooo not tasty). A death in the family, followed immediately by a week long “vacation” has been cause for my absence. Winding down now and getting ready to re-enter our regularly scheduled programming, I thought it would be a good idea to let you know I haven’t forgotten about my treasured audience in this tiny corner of the interwebs. So hello folks, and welcome to a little episode of what I call “the brain drain” (otherwise known as getting stuff off my chest).
Two weeks ago tomorrow, my grandfather passed away. Being the first death in my family during the course of my adult life, it seemed like a much more surreal experience than I remember the last instance of losing a loved one to be. Considering the last instance was at the tender age of 10ish and involved watching Snoop Dog music videos in my grandparent’s den, getting my ears pierced and eating a crap ton of food, much has changed from my previous recollection of death (actually there was still a crap ton of food, but everything else was different). Alas, my poor brain now comprehends, death is so much more than a ten year old’s excuse to do strange things on strange days and eat a lot of food. A few things that I’ve learned from this new perspective:
1. My children, any children, react so individually to death that there is little to do to prepare ourselves as parents to handle the situation. As soon as I learned of my grandpa’s passing, I decided that there was no good reason to not tell them as soon as possible what what going on. I sat down and explained to them matter-of-factly that Grampa Dougie’s body stopped working and he died. I spoke so carefully, making sure not to use terms like “lost” or “gone” in an attempt to not confuse the simplest of minds. My 3 year old daughter wrapped her brain around my words right away and started to cry (most likely because I was crying, but I know she legitimately understood the sorrow in what happened). My 4 year old son asked if the doctor could fix him again (“no”). He then asked if my grandmother was going to go to the store and buy a new Grampa Dougie (“no, grampas are not like toys, you can’t just replace them when they break”). He then asked when we could go see Grampa Dougie because he really wanted to show him a new toy truck that he had recently acquired (“um, no, Grampa Dougie is dead”). He then asked if we could see him tomorrow when he comes home (“again, no, Grampa Dougie is dead“). He then asked when we can see Grampa Dougie so he can show him his new toy truck (no words this time, I just hugged him too tightly and let him go to play with his toy truck). I anticipated saying out loud that my grandpa was dead to be the most gut wrenching experience of my life, but in all honesty, it was rather therapeutic. It floored me however, that my youngest embraced the actuality of my grandfather’s death while my oldest was refusing to accept the idea of someone in his life being gone indefinitely.
2. In the wake of death, life goes on. There is no pause button; there are still mouths to feed, bills to be paid, underwear to be changed. More importantly, there are still tears to be cried and laughs to be had as we move on and celebrate the life of the people we miss so dearly.
3. Allow yourself a moment to say goodbye. In the days between my grandfather’s passing and his memorial service, it felt like auto-pilot kicked in. There was planning to be done, errands to be run, meals to be made, and sleep. We all went through the daily motions in the midst of emotional upheaval with the straightest of faces, with the occasional tear falling. I felt so incomplete during the course of those four days. It was not until that Saturday morning, as I stood and read a few poems in remembrance of my grampa to a church full of his most beloved family and friends did I experience the emotional relief of saying goodbye.
4. It’s okay to cry. Or scream. Or laugh. Or vomit. Or joke. Or shake. Or talk. Or sing. Or run. Or hug. Or take a nap. Or pout. Or hide. Or dance. Or sob. Or smile. There is no right or wrong way to mourn.
The single most important thing that I learned is this:
If I end up to be half the person my Grampa Dougie was, I’ll be alright.