When someone in your life dies, especially if it happens suddenly, your life has to adjust and find a new normal. Even if the person you lost is not someone you see everyday, there are things that ripple out from that and change so much.
We lost my grandmother this week. It was sudden, at least for me. She had a heart attack about six weeks ago and I think that taught her more than I was willing to admit. It scared her. I saw her once after the heart attack. She was giving my mother (her daughter) her “five wishes” document in the event of her death. She gave me two Christmas games she wanted me to store at my house for our Christmas Eve game night. At the time it seemed morbid and scary, two things I tend to avoid. Now? Well now I’m grateful we had that moment.
Friday night she had a stroke. The next 5-7 days became a complete blur. We (my immediate family and I) spent a lot of time in the hospital. There was a surgery, things looked like they might be moving upward. Then things crashed back down. Family was called in. She died, peacefully, surrounded by family on Tuesday.
Now we go on and create our new normal. My grandmother was an amazing woman. She was full of life and energy. She radiated this cheerfulness that was unmatched in anyone else I’ve ever met. To know her was truly to love her.
So what does life without her look like?
For me, there’s a lot of things that will be different. I have guilt that will never go away. Guilt about the dinners we promised we’d do and never got around to. Guilt about the sequel to my book that she wanted to read and will never get a chance to. Guilt about the Christmas decorations I didn’t take when she offered them to me. I know those things wouldn’t mean a lot to her. She’d brush them off and tell me not to worry. She’d probably hug me, tell me it’s water under the bridge. But it doesn’t mean the same from myself or anyone else. The guilt survives.
I live a mile from her house. I drive by her community all the time. That’s different now too. She’s lived there, at least part time, since I was in elementary school. It’s always been a place that seemed happy and was full of warm memories for me. I drove by Wednesday morning and absolutely did not feel that. I felt sadness to my core. That’s new. I’ll have to deal with that.
My grandfather, her husband, passed away when I was in college. I guess that was probably approaching twenty years ago, although it doesn’t seem that long. Ever since he died I have been able to talk to him. It’s hard to explain, especially if you don’t believe in such things, but I have always felt his immediate presence when I talked with him. I would sit in a room (or my car) alone and just say “Papa” and it was instant. That rush of feeling like he was there. It was kind of like a warmth. I knew I could talk about whatever I needed and I felt like he was listening. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I didn’t. In the beginning I talked about all the things I wanted to say to him and didn’t get the chance to say. In the end I talked about her. Monday night I had a little conversation with him about Nana. I told him she seemed scared, restless. I asked him to come get her. Yesterday when I tried to have a conversation with him, I could tell he wasn’t there. I’m fine with it because it just tells me they’re together, probably busy. But that’s another thing I have to get used to. I’m going to miss that connection with him as much as I’m going to miss her.
There are recipes that I make that I know will remind me of her. My son pointed out that he will “never get to golf with Nana Banana” and that broke my heart. There are pictures of her I will have a hard time looking at. There are pictures I won’t be able to get enough of. There are places that will bring memories, smells that bring memories. We have a strong family. We will bond together and we will be fine. We’ll find our new normal because that is what you do.
Thanks for reading, I’m sure this post is all over the place. For today, it’s the best I can do.