September 24, 2014

Tomorrow, I fly off to bury my grandmother. She lived an adventuresome and full life, one that was accented by an electric personality and hysterical experiences. She suffered a stroke shortly before her death and I know that she would have not liked all that the stroke robbed from her. Yet, despite how good her life was, this is a huge loss to me.

I expect people to die. I think it is an occupational hazard, (as well as simply living long enough to have lost a good number of folks), having been present now for so many deaths and to so many family members grieving losses. I expect people to die. I know that all of us move that way, that direction, each day, each breath, each moment. And I don’t say that to be a downer or to be morbid or to make you think depressing thoughts. Because to me, even death is closely held by Tender Hands. My life has been touched by death many more times than I’d like to count, and the pain can be quite acute. But I know that it is not the end. Tears, yes. Grief, yes. Sometimes long grief than never really goes away, yes. But it’s not the end.

I expect people of a certain age to die. I was shocked when my friend, Tom, died this summer at a young age. No one expected that. Not me at least. But when Grandma died, I wasn’t surprised given all she had endured and the years she had lived. A loss to me, yes. But not a surprise.

And yet despite being quite prepared, I find myself deeply saddened at her passing. Saddened that this bright, vivacious light has gone away. And amid all the stories I remember, all the things that made me laugh and smile, this one thing keeps reaching inside me and twisting my heart: my grandmother was someone who went out of her way to let me know she was immensely proud of me.

I think wanting particular people to be proud of me is a childhood longing that remains locked inside my heart. We all have those childhood longings; we just learn to manage them. We don’t always get to see those longings fulfilled either; so we manage that grief too. But Grandma stepped in for me. I doubt she could see that that was something that I harbored for so many years- that longing. I don’t think she ever knew. Because she didn’t need to. She didn’t need to know that I longed for that sense of someone being proud of me. She didn’t need to know because she just was. She was proud of me, of my hard work in school getting a graduate degree, of my passions and dreams and abilities, of me. Not because I needed to know someone was proud, but because she simply was proud. Not because she was my grandmother and that’s what was expected of her- Grandma rarely did what people expected of her- but because she genuinely looked at me and had pride in her eyes.

And I don’t know that she ever knew how much that meant. She loved me- sure. That’s a given. But that “I’m proud of you” piece. Yeah… that stuck.

Fortunately, at my age, that childhood longing is very well kept. I don’t need to indulge that longing really at all. But I am forever grateful that my Grandma- wild woman that she was- was willing to stop long enough to see in me what I had to give, who I was, and what I could do and be. To believe in and support me and speak to me every chance she had of her pride in her granddaughter.

And I am proud of her too. I’m proud of her independence and lack of self-consciousness. I’m proud of her opinionated nature and her quick laugh. I’m proud of her generosity and courage. I’m proud of her.

And I will miss her.

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