A couple of weeks ago, mere days into the new year, my grandfather passed away after a three year battle with leukaemia. I have lived with him and my grandmother for about four years while I was in university, and despite being “prepared” for the death for quite some time now, I have to say that losing him has been the hardest death that I have experienced in my life. I’ve been thinking about it for what feels like an incredibly long time, through my very odd and unproductive coping methods with grief, and have finally come to the conclusion that maybe, like nearly everything else in my life, the best way for me to figure this all out (at least figure out some small semblance of the situation) is by writing about it.
When I got the call from my stepmom, Tamara, I was on the phone with my cousin Marina (my grandparents’ goddaughter) in Edmonton and still lounging in bed. I put her on hold while I talked to Tamara and after hanging up, clicked over and said to her somewhat bewildered, “He just died.” Marina and her sister Cassandra had just returned to Edmonton from their visit to Toronto only two days before, but their parents were still in the city until the end of the week. She hung up to call and tell them the news, so they could go to the hospital right away. The moment I hung up with her, I curled up back under my covers and cried for a solid half hour before pulling myself together and heading upstairs. My brother Alex and I were at our mom’s, since I couldn’t be at the hospital (I had developed a sinus infection while there); we got our stuff together and headed to my grandparents’ house right away. Alex went directly downstairs to fix the few things my grandfather had asked him to repair on his train set (before he had even gone to the hospital), and I sat down with my family at the kitchen table. There was this strange alternation between staring blankly at each other and telling funny stories about things my grandfather had done.
From that point on, I held my emotions in check until I took it upon myself to babysit my little cousins during the wake. The oldest, at nine years old, fully understood the situation and spent the entire day crying. Finally, after having the girls help me write a eulogy on behalf of the four grandchildren, the three of us ended up huddled over each other in tears. The next day at the final viewing and funeral, I was steadily crying. It seemed very real, all of a sudden. I couldn’t deny any longer that he died, seeing him lying there in the casket. And at the same time, I was briefly frustrated that this happened, suddenly distraught that I had totally forgotten to give him one of the souvenirs I picked him up from my trip to Wales (a coin, to add to his well-loved collection), and yet totally accepting that… well, that it is what it is. I was angry and empty and numb all at the same time, but overall, I accepted it. I wasn’t confused — I’m still not confused — but I am sad. I’ll always be sad.
The loss came right before my dad and Tamara were supposed to be off on their honeymoon (having just gotten married on New Year’s Eve), and was postponed a week. Meaning, they’ve been gone this past week and I decided that I wanted to stay with my grandmother to keep her company while everyone else has been honeymooning, working, at school, and so forth. If anything, I thought that maybe spending this time with her would not only help in keeping her company, but also maybe lead me toward dealing with my own emotions that I seemingly can’t let out all at once.
As we made our way through the week, we easily fell into a routine of breakfast by 9.30am, lunch at around 1.00pm, and dinner no later than 5.30pm, so that we could be changed into our pyjamas and under blankets on the couch watching Murdoch Mysteries on Netflix by 6.15pm. In between these times, we were either drinking wine, running errands, cooking something fun, shovelling the stupid amount of snow on our driveway from the storms we’ve been having, or having people come visit us (and thus, eating a lot of panetone and drinking a lot of espresso and tea). Sometimes, it was a combination of more than one fo the above. On the off chance that we both decided to take some downtime for ourselves, she’d sit and watch game shows on TV while I worked on my blogging for a bit.
Throughout this time spent together, we’ve done a lot of reminiscing, storytelling, laughing, crying, and stating (almost dumbfounded), “I can’t believe he’s not coming home. I can’t believe he’s gone.”
But in truth, I can believe it. I’m not in denial… I accept the situation fully. I don’t like it, but I accept it. I understand what’s happened and somehow feel a sense of peace that he’s no longer suffering. If there’s anything to be ‘okay‘ with through all of this chaos and emotion, it’s that fact. He’s not suffering. The hardest parts of death are not for the person who has died (it’s all over for them, at least on this plane), but for the people that they’ve left behind.
I guess that, as they all say, the best way to heal is allowing time to pass and mend.