Tuesday, May 24, 2016
On life and death.
We are interring my grandma tomorrow, on her birthday. She died in November, but the ground was frozen so we decided to wait.
I bought a box to put her ashes in and I dropped it off at the funeral home the other day. The funeral director brought her remains out-- a cardboard box, smaller than a shoe box, filled with a tagged bag of sand. That was it. That was all that was left of her. This bag of greyish coloured sand.
It's hard to believe that someone so mighty; someone who, until recently, had been a part of what I know as forever is now just a box of sand.
I've tried to look for signs that she is still with me, and that there is something far more divine after this life. I've consoled myself and others by saying that she has finally been reunited with her beloved George, and her sisters and brothers.
I wear her necklace because it reminds me of her.
I realized that I am not at peace with her being gone. I am not at peace with what I believe in. I get scared when I think about death, or what it must feel like to die. I get scared when I think about me, or the people I love not existing anymore...
What if there is no heaven? What if this is all there is? What if there is a heaven, but I won't go because I don't know exactly what to put my faith into?
When I think about it I want to cry and throw up all at the same time.
When the funeral director showed me the sand I didn't make a big deal about my feelings. I've learned that big feelings like the ones I am having are hard to share. People get scared or uncomfortable, or they think you are being dramatic-- She was an old lady, she lived a hell of a lot longer than a lot of people. I should be so lucky to have had her for so long. Get over it.
I know. I really should.
But there, I got lost in a whole bunch of deep feelings and I didn't want to sound crazy. I was calm and I thanked the funeral director and I left.
When I got into my car the lump in my throat became too big and I started to cry.
I cried for her and I cried for myself.
I've struggled a lot with her death, and with the idea of death in general. This isn't new, I've always been afraid, but my fears have intensified since the birth of my daughter and the death of my grandma.
When Riel was born, my mortality hit me so fast and so hard I didn't even see it. I remember the second she was born, I was forever changed and I was euphoric. Here was this brand new life with everything ahead of her and yet there was this part of me that was already grasping at all the time I have with her. I remember thinking that all the rest of my life would never be enough time. I was so overcome with emotion that I just held onto her and I cried.
Perhaps it was hormones, or a realization of how precious life and love are. Whatever happened to me that night changed me and it changed the way I see life.
Eight months later, on the night my grandma died I remember smoothing her hair and telling her to let go. She was in a deep, medically induced sleep. Her breathing was forced and she was never going to wake up again. She was lingering in the land of the living, but death was all around. Even the weather sensed it. Tiny raindrops fell from the sky, as if to weep for her in her last hours of life.
In that moment I wanted her to die because life seemed so forced and I wanted her to be at peace. I wasn't thinking about the days, years or lifetime after she died. I wasn't even considering that her death would leave this emptiness and sense of wonder. I was just in that moment and I just wanted her to be at peace.
When someone is dying, it's hard to watch those final moments.
That evening her pastor came. He held her hand and he read Psalm 23:4
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff comfort me."
It seemed so cliché. I wanted to laugh and weep all at the same time.
I left her, intending to come back. I had to get my daughter home, and my parents were there to sit with my Amma as she drifted away.
And then my mom called me, maybe an hour after I got home, and she told me "Shell, she's gone."
My grandma meant different things to different people. I won't lie and say that she had great relationships with everyone, because she didn't. But, her and I had something special. She was one of my greatest loves and even though she was old and I was lucky to have her for as long as I did, my fear and my grief know no such logic.
I miss her. I miss her and I am so scared that I will never, ever see her again.
In life there is nothing more true than the fact that we are all going to die. It's the one constant. I remember asking Amma if she was afraid of dying. She said no. She believed in God and heaven, death wasn't an end for her.