As I walked through every room, I opened up each cabinet, pulled out every drawer--my last chance to save anything of my grandma's before it is given away to thrift stores. Things I had overlooked before as unnecessary to keep now became dishes I could point to in my own kitchen years from now and say, "These belonged to my grandma." Or to my future children, "These belonged to your great-grandma."
Walking through her house felt so familiar. It didn't feel like just any house. It felt like what it was: a place I have been visiting since a baby. It's where we celebrated Easters when I was little, every single Christmas Eve up until the last few years, many many birthdays while growing up. There's where the mushy squares of artichoke tortas and salami-wrapped Bruno peppers went, there's where the candied walnuts went, there's where the pile of Christmas presents went.
But I didn't feel the pain that others attested to. It bothers me, and yet every time I start to think about my grandma being "dead," something inside of me immediately counteracts with "No, but she lived, she is alive, she was alive, there's life here, the memories are alive, her memory is real." I don't seem to want to really focus on her being "dead." Even just saying it (which I have often) feels unrealistic--harsh and unrealistic--or just a matter of fact with no reality bearing on it.
I completely accept that she is not here anymore, that she is not present anymore, that she will never be present again. But that's as far as I have gone emotionally.
She was just always there. I am afraid that I will forget--I didn't capture memories like Cam Jansen with her photographic memory. She was just always there. It wasn't like I had to intentionally go visit her and make those unique, memorable moments. I am afraid of losing a 31 year relationship in the myopia* of present-tense life. She was always part of my life. I am afraid that if I do mourn, I will be resigning her to a rosy-colored, grainy picture or start remembering her through a gauzy cheesecloth.
"Dead" has such finality. "Dead" relegates something to the past. But right now, "is" and "was" seem interchangeable.
I am willing to accept that she is not currently here anymore. I am not sure if I am ready to put her in the category with the dead and gone and buried in a casket, lying still and pale and covered over with dirt. I am afraid that death will swallow up her life. But, I don't think it needs to be that way. I think she can still be living. That when I remember her, I don't think of how she is dead, but how she was alive. Not how she is not here, but how she was there for 31 years. Not that I won't see her anymore, but that she interacted with us every birthday and holiday, and gave me porcelain dolls and M&Ms and cookbooks for all those years. I'm afraid of losing the reality of her life by focusing on her death. I know that is not how it works, but I'm afraid that's how it will happen for me.
Maybe it's just a matter of saying it, solidifying it with printed words that won't be blown away with the wind.
While looking through my grandma's belongings, a friend called who also lost her grandma. She reminded me again of what I already know. We carry part of our grandmas with us always. Their lives affect us and our values, even if we don't realize it until the "aha, this is because of grandma" moment.
I guess it's really made me reevaluate the word "life," the concept of living, the concept of what life is, having a meaningful life, the value of all human life, and the value of a single life. The value of lives past that are so quickly forgotten. The seed of life that continues on because when one person affects another person, that person affects another, and life is sprouting in hearts because we stand on the shoulders of those gone before.
I guess I am reconciling life vs. death and figuring out how to hold onto one while accepting the other.
|I ate the one on the left today, picked from my grandma's garden.|
The irony of nature--life in the midst of death.
*Dictionary.com says I'm not using this word correctly, but I'm almost positive there's a word similar to this that means self-focused. So it's staying.