My Grandma passed away yesterday. 😦
The last week or so watching her go as been pretty painful – one of the most painful losses I’ve had to witness yet, even in all the death I’ve experienced these last few years.
This is the third grandparent I’ve lost in 8 months. Wow.
And, she is number 13 in 3 years. Can you believe that? Thirteen deaths in three years?! I shared that number with a friend yesterday and he responded, “If I lost 13 people, I wouldn’t have anyone left. That would be all my family and friends.”
That made it hit home for me. It really has been quite a thing.
I told myself the other day, “Wow, I must have some really wonderful friends and family – God seems to want ’em all back!”
I had a really horrific weekend, hence the reason I didn’t come and post. I did journal though, but what I wrote in my journal would need lots of black “censor” tags over it! I always say, a good journal is a best friend in times of grief. You can tell it anything, be honest, uncensored, horrific, angry, scary, mean – and it doesn’t judge you. In fact, if you read it back, it even gives you a good little dose of empathy, if you’ll have it.
I’m not feeling as angry now. I’m just taking this all in and trying to find the “Gifts in Grief,” as I always do. That’s such a funny term I’ve picked to use, because, really, at this point, fresh off a loss, it’s a hard thing to think of – finding gifts in grief.
But, I did find gifts, believe it or not.
This was the first time I really felt at peace with someone leaving. You might think, “Well, it’s easier to let go of someone in their 80’s who’s lived a long, full life,” and in some regards, you are right. But, on the other hand, this loss snuck up on us, when we thought she had years left with us, and it was a very hard loss to watch. I was angry and sad, and when I first heard she was dying, I decided to be angry at the sky/God/the Universe for handing me another death because, well, seriously, haven’t we had enough here lately?!
I sat at her bed side and my whole body held itself against what was happening. I was angry for myself, having to sit at another death bed. I was angry, again, for knowing all the signs of death. I was angry at my circumstances of kids, stress, work and life getting in the way of spending more time with her before she went.
But, again, I forced myself to get quiet and go within. I sat next to her bed, and closed my eyes, and did something very unusual, for me – for anyone, at that.
In my quiet, I could feel my Grandma’s spirit. I could feel her becoming a piece of the Earth, the sun, the sky. I could feel her almost splitting her spirit into a billion pieces and spreading herself out over the entire cosmos. There, there she is in the blade of grass. There, there she is in the warmth of the sun on my skin. There, there she is meandering down the creek in a flood of water. There, there she is, standing behind me, whispering, “You have been such a joy to me, dear.”
A feeling came over me that I could not describe. Something I had not identified yet, even in all this death. I could not name it, until one of my best friend’s named it for me, in a text message, the next day.
Friend: How are you doing today?
Me: Strangely, ok, somehow. Can’t explain it, but just feeling really at peace with it.
Friend: It took me 40 years to figure out that the “somehow” is the answer for a lot of my problems. Sometimes (a lot of the time) I wait it out. Something changes, everything changes. It is not my will activating anything, that much I know. Grace is a nice word for it.
Me: Nice way to put it. Thanks for sharing that.
1. a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
b : a virtue coming from God
c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace
2. a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior:
Synonyms: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness.
3. mercy; clemency; pardon
Synonyms: lenity, leniency, reprieve.
Yes, I do believe it was Grace that swept over me as I sat there at her bedside and found a smile in me. I felt unspeakable joy, peace…and grace.
The day before, I had read my Grandma this passage out of “You Are Here” (take notes, I want this read at my funeral!). As I sat there, I felt the words become powerfully real and true in this experience.
This body is not me.
I am not limited by this body.
I am life without boundaries.
I have never been born,
and I have never died.
Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my wondrous true mind.
Since before time, I have been free.
Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.
Birth and death are a game of hide- and seek.
So laugh with me,
hold my hand,
let us say good-bye,
say good-bye, to meet again soon.
We meet today.
We will meet again tomorrow.
We will meet at the source every moment.
We meet each other in all forms of life.
~By Thich Nhat Hanh, Chanting and Recitations from Plum Village. Page 188.
It was in that moment, that this feeling of being the Grim Reaper Girl seemed to dissipate in me.
I’ve called myself that, because I’ve felt like death was following me, and that I somehow, always end up ushering people out of this life. I don’t like all the ugliness of death in it’s physicality – it’s uncomfortable, unspeakable, hard to witness, hard to be fully present to. But, I am able to be present to it, and I think if I can be fully present sitting at death’s doorstep, I can pretty much face anything.
And, it’s not all ugly. It’s really how we look at it. I’ve been blessed to have people come into my life and remind me of what an honor it is to be with someone in death. In Buddhist teachings, they say Death and Birth are interconnected. We could not have one without the other.
I’m not religious, I don’t know what happens on the “other side.” I’d like to believe in a Heaven that looks a little like Robin William’s painted heaven in “What Dreams May Come” or Susie Salmon’s “dogs dancing” heaven in the book, “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold.
It does comfort me, though, to hear what people who’ve had NDE’s (near-death experiences) say – it’s always this overwhelming sense of peace, light and love they describe.
Believing we are all headed for that unspeakable joy and grace, I decided this time, to see the honor of celebrating someone into the afterlife, not just the hurt. It doesn’t take the hurt away, it just holds the hurt in that state of grace. I don’t know if I could do this again with death, and I don’t think I could ever go back, say to my nephew’s loss, and be able to find smiles through the tears over a loss that cruel. But, this time, for a girl who has certainly felt enough of the pain of death, it was nice to feel a little grace, too.
A thought came into my heart as I smiled, “I’m NOT the Grim Reaper Girl. I’m just an angel on earth (as we all are!), helping other angels find their way home.”
What an honor that is, don’t you think?
So, what’s the morale of my story, my dears?
Celebrate life, every day, in every way.
Celebrate life, even ’til it’s last breaths on this Earth.
Celebrate life, even into the afterlife.
Wake up each day, and celebrate your life.
Always remember, there is joy unspeakable to be found, in every moment, in every experience.
For every sorrow once brought joy, and every death, large or small, to the afterlife, or just a new life on Earth, is a rebirth as well.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me.