One year ago this month, my grandmother passed away. She was 91. I lost an uncle several years ago but we’d never been that close so while it was a shock, the loss wasn’t on the same level as my grandmother. Grandma was 91 and had fallen a couple months prior to her death. Her passing was not a surprise, and in fact was one of those things we all secretly hope for because the poor woman was not happy. She was in a rehab facility, on oxygen, not eating, and had recently lost her dinner companion (my cousin’s grandma, oddly enough). The last time I saw her on FaceTime, she didn’t look like gram. She was thinner, starved, and a little lost. I was with my newborn niece and asked to hang up when Olivia started to fuss. That was the last time I saw her. A week before she passed, my sister flew to Ohio with Olivia so gram could meet her. Within a few days of my sister’s return, gram passed.
I returned home to Ohio for the funeral. I sat in the back of the funeral home, unwilling to see my grandma in a casket (because that’s all I can remember of my great grandma and grandpa). But grandma’s funeral did what funerals are supposed to do: it brought our family together. Usually when I return home it’s for holidays, which means my cousins are busy with their own lives and celebrations, but this time there was no excuse. We got to spend time together, catch up, have fun, reminisce. Growing up, gram’s house was the place we congregated, whether it was so gram could watch us while our parents went grocery shopping, or for holidays. We spent many, many hours with her, and most of my best childhood memories in some way involved her house.
That having been said, I wasn’t sure what to expect when she died. I expected to be sad, of course, and I was (still am), but I’ve also experienced a longing for my childhood, for holidays spent at gram’s, for the ability to go to gram’s house when I return home from Montana. I loved going to gram’s house in the evening so my mom and aunt could walk her neighborhood. I loved surprising gram with my presence (my sisters and I were the only grandchildren to move out of Ohio). I miss being able to pick up the phone and talk to her. Even as she started to lose her memories, we never failed to have fun when we chatted. We’d laugh and tell each other about our lives (although hers was decidedly the same…pretty much had been since she retired at 65).
Over this last year, I found myself thinking about grandma a lot. And that’s not to say I didn’t think about her when she was alive–I did. But it’s different when they’re just a phone call away. My thoughts are both sad and nostalgic, but also rather comforting because I know that she can see me now, in Montana. She knows I’m well. And happy. And pooping in a real toilet (we joked a lot about the notion of Montana as being a wilderness with no indoor plumbing). I feel her presence a lot. So while her death and my grief has been new for me, it’s not been an unwelcome experience.
In what ways has grief surprised you?