On Sunday, we held an unveiling ceremony for my Grandmother. Traditionally, the unveiling ceremony is given an uplifting tone. Mourners can be expected to reflect on their loved one with fondness, cherishing happy memories, and feeling like the grief has faded. As we gathered at Grandma's grave, I felt anything but uplifted. The pages in the booklet we read felt meaningless and irrelevant to me. I'm not ok with this. I'm not ok with losing her. As we wrapped up, I found myself too choked up to even express all the thoughts that were running through my head. Nearly a year later, I was unable to convey the depth of my grief.
I miss her more now than I did several months ago. Each day I think of something I would like to tell her or share with her. Each day I feel like we are all missing out on having her here with us. Her last couple years were sad and feeble. She was in a state of steady decline and it was frustrating and disheartening to watch her lose one ability after another, physical and mental. When she did pass away, it was almost a relief to know that she no longer existed in a state of limbo, living, yet not participating in life. I am still so glad I took 5 week old Logan to meet her(against medical advice due to her infection), to see the smile on her face and recognition in her eyes. She clearly knew that she was holding her newest great-grandson. As I put him in her arms, she tenderly kissed his soft little head, savoring this new life that was part of her. By that point, she hardly spoke at all. As I left I told her I love her and she said it right back, clear as day. Those were the last words she spoke to me, if anyone. Over the next few weeks she became gravely ill, fighting a battle against an unseen organism that ultimately won. Maybe she didn't fight. Maybe that was just us fighting on her behalf. I can still feel her soft skin under my fingers that last night as I held her hand and rubbed her arm, putting on lotion as Marlena had suggested to make sure she was as comfortable as she could be. It was hard to walk away that night and not a surprise to get the call during the night.
Now, although I do clearly remember all of this and the emotions that went with her enfeeblement, more often I think of her more upbeat qualities. I can vividly picture her dancing in the living room in her moomoo and dearfoams, rocking out to Donna Summers, Hot Stuff. I can hear her gleeful laugh as I bumped her marble in Aggravation as she taught me strategy, good sportsmanship, and the value of time spent together. Grandma and Grandpa's house was a haven for me. I loved being there. In high school, frequently made the 2 hour trip to their "new" place in the desert. Aged 3 or aged 20, there were donuts aplenty, and marathon Aggravation tournaments. I think of Grandma and Grandpa as a unit. As I said Sunday by her grave, she always stood quietly in his shadow and when he died, she was a shadow of her former self. After 60 years of marriage, her light had gone out. Those four years without him were sad for her, even has she took pleasure in her family.
Although she didn't have quite the same glow about her without Grandpa, her pleasure in my pregnancies was endless. She had tons of questions and I had the opportunity to get to know her now as a mother. She shared stories of her pregnancies and asked endless questions about our choice for names, how I was feeling and eventually, every detail of Hayden's daily routine and changes. He loved to sit on her lap, usually grabbing her glasses, and no amount of squirming and tugging on his part was too uncomfortable for her. Now that both boys are getting older, I wish she could see their daily schtick. She always took such joy in being with children, and I would love to see her get that joy from my own sons. She would kvell to see Hayden recite the Kiddush, and be a little mensch in temple, wanting to know when they would open the "cabinet," or ark to see the Torahs in there. She would have had so much fun as I clapped Logan's hands to Shabbat Shalom and made him giggle with joy at the festive song. She fostered our traditions and the love of family that is ingrained in me today. I am not ok with losing her.
I believe that the reason I miss her so much more now, is that I am able to focus on the good memories, rather than worrying about her decline. There is no longer any guilt for not visiting enough, for not doing enough, for not being able to make it better. There is only fondness and a deep love that she planted within me. As we pass on our religious traditions, she is there. As I take delight in teaching Hayden the Candy Land game, she is there. The value we place on family is influenced by her. Everything I do is in part shaped by her influence on me. Maybe the fact that I still grieve so deeply for her is her legacy at work.
I am ok with that.