Today many people that I love are mourning. They are mourning the loss of a true friend and companion and brother and father and uncle.
It’s hard to know what to say – it’s hard to know what would be appropriate and in the midst of it all. Yet this morning I find myself reflecting on a similar circumstance in my own life, as I suppose we all do.
In 2002 my grandmother died of brain aneurism – just as my friend. She was the kind of person who had every disease and knew she was on the precipice of death at every turn – very unlike my friend. She used to have the department of aging call her every morning to see if she had died in her sleep.
We used to laugh at this behind her back and talk about how ridiculous it was.
In the end, this was how we actually found her.
My mother and I ventured over one summer morning, much like today, after having received a call saying that she had not picked up when called.
I remember driving over to her house with the haunting expectation of death looming over us. We took the house by rooms, going through with trepidation. When we found her it was not beautiful as I had known from Disney movies and old paintings or from my imagination when reading novels and poetry.
The paramedics came and actually revived her and when we got the to the hospital they had her on life support. My family came to the hospital and we were all able to say goodbye to our gramma but the truth was that she had not been with us… not for some time.
My grandmother had most likely died instantly from the shock of the massive brain bleed…but what I’m speaking of is an emotional distance that came long before that.
My grandfather had died 30 years earlier from a heart attack and truly that was the moment my grandmother had stopped living as well. Understandably she was traumatized by having lost her dear husband and lover when he was only 39 year old. She had four children to raise on her own and she had not been consulted as to whether or not this was a good time for him to leave her. She did what she had to do and abandoned her previous career as a seamstress and designer to climb the corporate ladder and drifting further and further away from those she loved.
I don’t know how any human being could bear this. I don’t know how I myself would respond.
When sorting through her things in the weeks following her death, we found beautiful handmade dresses and boxes of receipts from her wedding. We found bags of old pockets and Christmas ornaments from her childhood.
She had collected all these objects but had pushed away those closest to her because of this great tragedy that had befallen her life.
My grandmother chose to live this way. She chose the distance. And it is a choice for all of us. When faced with tragedy do we lift our heads to God in hope, hope that he has our lives in his loving hands? Do we look to our futures and see the blessings that still surround us? Do we look to our past and and remember the beauty of the person’s life we lost or do we let go of it all? Do we let go of hope?
The frame above is a constant reminder to me. It reminds me, in an odd way, to keep living despite tragedy and despite heartache. It reminds me to stop collecting buttons and spend the life that I have been given…until its finished.