Friday, May 27, 2016

Saying Goodbye

It's true what they say about life: it just keeps going even when you feel like your own world has stopped.

You get a phone call and this person, this loved one who has always been a part of your life, is gone. Suddenly. And in the background, there is one child needing to be fed and one walking in the door from school and another one napping upstairs. There's no time to stop. To think. To process.

So tears fall silently as you put sliced apples on a tray for the baby and you try to keep your nine-year-old from noticing because you don't have the words yet to tell him.

This will be his first loss.

I remember mine. I remember at just about his age, staring out the front window of our house as my parents drove away to my other grandpa's funeral. I don't remember who stayed with us. I just remember the sadness. Wishing I could go with them but being terrified of what being at a funeral would feel like. Wanting to know what happened, what it would mean, knowing somehow that my world had changed forever.

So, yesterday, when I picked up the phone again a few hours later to talk to my mama and couldn't keep the tremor out of my voice as she talked to me of her father and what we were going to do to mourn and celebrate him, he looked at me and said, "Mom, what's going on?"

My Gramps and I, circa 1979
And I told him.

"Gramps died today, honey."
"He did?"
"Yes. Do you understand what that means?"
"Are you ok?"

Silence. Big eyes.

My son is not a verbal processor. (I wonder where he gets that ;) I gave him a big hug, could tell he was trying not to cry in front of the neighbors and told him that if he needed to cry, that it was ok. That he should, that this is sad. He turned, went inside and curled up in his bed. I had two little nuggets at my feet splashing in a pool and had to let him go. Knowing he was mourning alone. Knowing I still hadn't had a chance myself to even grasp the truth.

Life doesn't always stop long enough for you to catch your breath in these moments. You still have to keep that toddler from doing a cannonball directly onto his baby brother in a 1 foot deep pool.  You still have smoothie smeared on your shirt front and an infant attempting to eat all the landscaping.

You still have to cook dinner.

My wedding, June 2003
And once you've done that, you have to go upstairs and cuddle your oldest child. The one sobbing in his bed. The one who has just figured out how loss FEELS. It's different from reading about it or seeing it happen in a Disney film. The next time we go to Florida to visit, Gramps won't be there. I can barely type that sentence let alone help him understand it.

November 2006, Josh 3 weeks old
I am fortunate that my son got to know his great-grandparents. That they were a part of his life and that my granny still is. They met him at 3 weeks old and saw him every year. They goofed off with him in the pool, he crawled around their lovely white condo messing things up as an infant, he made them laugh. They made him laugh and cherished him. He is old enough that he will remember them.

This isn't some nebulous, distant relative he has just lost.

For that I am so grateful.

It does make the pain stronger, though.
With his family

December 1950

And right now? The pain of a mother's heart watching her child's break even as her own is breaking is acute. Trying to find a way to process a world without my Gramps isn't going to be easy. He was easy to love. He made us all laugh. He was delightfully sarcastic far before I was old enough to even understand it. He said what he wanted to say. He served his country in Korea. He could watch golf for hours (How, oh Lord??!!). He worked hard and played hard. He loved my granny fiercely for almost 66 years. 66 years, friends.(Don't even get me started on how unhinged I become when I start to think about her saying goodbye to him next week.) He had three amazing kids who will miss him more than words can say. He, like all humans, wasn't perfect. But he loved us. And we loved him. The world is now a different place for my family.
His Grandkids

June 2010

In a few days, my son will watch me leave to
go to Florida to say goodbye. I imagine he'll feel a
lot like I did so long ago. Full of questions, unsure what to do with the sadness.

60th Wedding Anniversary

Aware, in a new way, that the world can be a sad, sad place. I can only hope as his mama to be able to mourn alongside him, share pictures and stories and help him figure out how he can say his own goodbyes even as I figure out mine. To find that intangible balance between mourning and celebration that is the only thing that can truly help us understand and keep going on in our changed world.

Gramps, rest in peace. You are loved and missed terribly already. Thank you for who you were to so many of us.


  1. Beautifully done. I'm sorry for your loss.
    Paula Stanton

  2. Beautifully done. I'm sorry for your loss.
    Paula Stanton