This week was quite a different week in that you don’t lose a grandmother every week. At least I don’t, and that’s what made it rather unique in its presentation. This past Friday (it seems like everything happens on a Friday, no?) I got a phone call from my mother, who was up in northeastern Pennsylvania visiting my then-living grandmother, who said that Amma (grandma) was not doing so well and that it probably wouldn’t be long. My grandmother was diagnosed with progressive dementia about a year or so ago and was moved from her assisted living facility to a full-blown nursing home when she started going further downhill. Over the past six months, she had moments where she didn’t know who any of us were, including her daughter, my mother. She declined fast and with the heartbreaking news of the very early death of my cousin, it seemed she’d sunk into a deep depression along with her myriad illnesses.
Suffice it to say, my grandmother passed this past Friday and my husband, daughter and myself traveled up to Pennsylvania for the viewing, funeral and other related gatherings. What’s strange about the whole thing, however, is that this is the first death I’ve experienced that left me with more a feeling of peace and contentment than loss and all-consuming sadness. While I do mourn my grandmother – anyone who’s been close at one point to an elderly woman they associate with the name ‘Grandma’ would – I feel more at peace in her passing than I did during her suffering, which, I suppose, is equally normal.
Despite the general sadness that permeated the trip, I was able to reconnect with my best friends, who, due to busy schedules, children, careers and whatever else have you, I haven’t seen in almost three years. We’d all kept in close contact with the innovation of social networking sites and of course phone calls and text messaging, but there’s nothing like seeing the women you grew up with in the flesh, especially at a time when they’re most needed. I was able to visit with family members who, in the space of another three years, might not be around then, either. We all laughed together, cried together, suffered through the shame of shared, bad experiences and above all, appreciated one another in a completely different way. And it’s a shame that something like this – a death, a break in visits over a three-year period – would have to happen to showcase our fallibility and fragility in a way we’d understand.
The trip was therapeutic for me. It allowed me to re-center and realize even more than I already know that life is fragile and moments shouldn’t be wasted. I don’t mean to get all preachy on you guys, because that’s just not me, but damn. It goes by so fast, friends, and the span of a decade happens in a blink of an eye.