Before this spring, I had never lost a close blood relative. I’ve lost a few married in aunts or uncles or great-grandparents but I had never lost a grandparent, parent, sibling or blood uncle or aunt. This spring, my grandfather died. And like in so many cases of long lasting love, my grandmother had a stroke not 2 months after he was in the ground – and on Mother’s Day no less. I came right away and although she was still living, she was in a vegetative state and I don’t know if she knew I was in the room or not. I talked to her, showed her the new baby, cried and then… well, what more could I do accept support my mother and uncles. If their reactions to her state and eventual death are any indication, she was a great mother. I have had 35 years to know this but their mourning was such a reminder of what a great person she was.
Death comes unexpectedly.
When I got here to the house, I got out of the car and was overwhelmed by the smell that reminded me of my grandfather, his lawnmower and his cars that were in pristine condition.
Grandma’s laundry was still in the drier. I folded it and put in her drawers.
Her kids had each sent her a Mother’s Day flower arrangement and they were still on the counters of her kitchen. She only got to enjoy them for mere hours before she collapsed from the stroke and never again opened her eyes to see anything around her.
Dad and I were deciding what to make for dinner and found food that needed to be thrown out but he didn’t want to because “It’s Mom’s kitchen.” But Dad, she’s not coming back to clean it out. Just throw it. What will she care? We are the ones eating out of this fridge and cooking in this kitchen. But it’s so strange to think that because she was here less than 24 hours ago assuming she would be the one cooking and now, she will never come back to this food she bought.
Her computer was littered with sticky notes in her handwriting indicating logins and passwords for the accounts she had set up after grandpa couldn’t pay bills anymore.
Her purse was still out ready to go to the store.
Her cell phone was plugged in on the counter and it went off every few hours with Facebook alerts, news bulletins and messages from people who didn’t know her condition.
The house phone rang and I answered it. It was pest control. I was amazed that life could go on when she was in the hospital – dying. The pest control lady didn’t know but shouldn’t the whole world go on hold while grandma took her last breaths?
But it doesn’t.
That’s what I learned.
No matter how good or bad a person you were in life, your passing will not stop earth from turning. Family will mourn you and your life will have had an effect on everyone – good or bad. Family will sit by your bedside and hang on every breath – hoping that you will get better or just die because they can’t take seeing you suffer. The guilt of hoping for a swift death will weigh on everyone – no matter their connection to you.
But the world goes on no matter what. I keep on doing the laundry here at her house. My mom and uncle water the plants. We fill the refrigerator and continue to use grandma’s house while we plan a memorial service and wait by her bedside for her to die or get better.
And then… she’s gone. And she’s not coming back here to this house. She will never sit in her rose garden again and she will never watch Jeopardy and mumble the answers under her breath. But we will remember all this about her – and talk about it someday without weeping – and live our lives because… what else can we do?