So I’ve been needing to write for a few weeks now. Writing is cathartic for me……a way to release all of those feelings that I hold inside in my futile attempt at appearing strong. One of the reasons I haven’t written is because, a. there has been no time and b. there is no way that I could possibly put my level of grief down on paper. I don’t know that there are words in the English language that could possibly do justice to the hurt that I currently feel in my soul. What on earth could possibly cause this grief, you ask? Well on Saturday, October 1st we lost my mother in law or Grandma as she was affectionately known by just about everyone.
Anyone that knows us knows that the last 3 years, since Tracy’s (my husband’s sister) death, have been difficult. Grandma struggled with severe depression and there were days when she couldn’t get out of bed. I’m ashamed to admit that after 2 year of this I had lost a lot of my empathy for her. I was easily frustrated by her lack of concern for our home, for her inability to see joy in things, for her unwillingness to count her many blessings. Oh how easy it is to be a Judgy Judy when it isn’t you who has lost a daughter or you who is suffering. Don’t get me wrong, I loved her dearly and she was one of my closest friends but a part of me feels a lot of guilt for my attitude over the last year. See, my life was amazing. In three years I had given birth to two beautiful children, I had a good job, fantastic home, great husband and a family full of people who loved me and wanted only the best for me. While I sat high on top of my mountain of goodness I watched her become more distant and sad. Not every day was bad, in fact, a lot of days were good. She always tried to wear a smile for the kids and over the last several months she had been doing fairly well. We knew she struggled but she also made an effort to get out of bed every day.
On Friday night she and Grandpa had gone out to dinner and Bingo. Grandpa had just traded his truck in for a corvette so they decided to take it out for a spin. The night was good. They had fun and talked about the future. Grandma even mentioned that she felt like she was coming out of her fog. She told Grandpa that she planned to take Toby (the dog) for a walk the next morning. They got home around 11:30 and I could hear them laughing and joking in the kitchen as she made the coffee for the morning. I remember thinking that it sounded like the old Grandma. I drifted off to sleep while making a list of all the things I needed to accomplish the next day.
Fast forward to Saturday morning……Rich got up early, probably around 7:15 or so. The coffee had been started and several cups were missing so all seemed as it should be. I finally roused myself out of bed around 8:00 a.m. Relishing in the fact that I had been able to sleep in. That never happens around our house so I was feeling really lucky. I got up, made my way to the kitchen to get breakfast for the kiddos and saw Grandpa coming downstairs. I casually asked where Grandma was as he opened up the morning paper. He replied that she was going to walk the dog. Hmmmm, okay so hopefully today will be a good day?? I fed the kids, jumped in the shower and was getting William dressed. I had told Rich of my plans to leave Abby at home while Will and I dropped Nate off at school and then went to the craft store. Rich and Grandpa had plans to pour some concrete in the backyard for a new shed we had just bought……the weather was beautiful and fall was just starting to set in. We were all so excited for cooler weather and the holidays.
Around 9:15 or so Grandpa went upstairs to get ready for the day and realized that Nathan was occupying the bathroom that they shared. Grumbling I’m sure, Grandpa made his way to Grandma’s bathroom (Grandpa snores like a bear so he and Grandma had separate rooms) and saw her on the floor. Assuming she was looking for her cat he yelled at her to ask what she was doing. When she didn’t respond he went over to her and realized that she was gone. He immediately called to Rich and Rich called 911. I ran up the stairs to see what was going on and when I saw her, I knew. I don’t know that I will ever forget how she looked. The gray skin, the broken sunglasses……….it appears that she was getting her sunglasses and heading to get Toby out of his kennel when it happened. The medical examiner says her heart stopped and she “just died”. I’m not sure that I understand how you just die…….there is no just dying. We know she didn’t suffer……she probably never knew what happened and their assumption was she that she was gone in a matter of minutes. I think about that…….minutes. One breath you are here and the next you are gone. One second you are making plans for the future and the next your life has been cut short.
After finding her, I scooped up my babies and ran them to the neighbor’s house because I knew it was going to be a long day. I started calling family and friends for reinforcement and prepared to do one of the hardest things I have ever done. I’ll spare you the details but after 3 ½ hours our house was finally empty of medical personnel, police, fireman, neighbors, etc. In the quiet of the house, I looked around and realized that all the dreams I had built my life upon, all the “stuff” that I had acquired meant nothing at this point. My true treasures were my family, my friends and my faith. Those things would serve as the warm coat I would pull around me in the midst of death’s chilly sting. Those things would be what sustained me as I went through the motions of planning a funeral. Those things would give me the strength to tell my baby boy that his Grandma was in Heaven. Those things would push me forward every day and allow me to find a new normal for our family. Those things would also remind me what is really important in life. In spite of my grief, I am blessed beyond measure. In spite of our pain, we have been given so much more than we deserve. In spite of my anger at the thought of my children not knowing a grandmother who loved them so much, I know that we are never truly alone.