The sea of grief and sadness seems so deep and wide this year. Starting in late fall 2008 with P’s aunt’s death just weeks after our wedding all the way to today, the waves just start to recede when they roar back, sweeping me away in frothy, cold fullness.
My grandma died on Thursday from pancreatic cancer. She was a sprightly working woman until August when she was let go for the season (she worked at a state park where she had been for nearly 30 years) and was diagnosed with cancer just days later. The doctors told her she had less than 3 months to live and, sure enough, 3 months and a small handful of days later, she slipped quietly on while watching her beloved birds outside her window.
By the end she couldn’t speak or move. The slim woman with a big presence; eternally kind, and optimistic, the witty woman who was sharp with words, the woman who lived on her own in the woods until her death, the woman who I barely knew but shared a name with, was reduced a small pile of bones lying on the bed waiting for the end to come.
I’m 27 and have no more living grandparents. I feel too young for this, to be so on my own, to know so little of those before me.
I adored my grandma as a kid, but my mother’s tenuous relationship with her family made visits rare and short. Running around my grandma’s expansive, unmanicured lawn with the dilapidated shed full of ancient toys remains one of my clearest, and happiest, childhood memories.
My biological family, on both sides, holds little regard for pomp and circumstance. There was no funeral for my father, neither will there be one for my grandma. There will be a party at a local bar. I’ve come to love rites of passage, however, and there is part of me that grieves the loss of this. There is much to be said for community, and walking through big and painful events together. My family is full of solo pirates and prefer to live as far from the sunshine as humanly possible.
So here, today, ten months after my dad slipped away unexpectedly, one year since I’ve last saw him conscious, I grieve for my grandma. I grieve that I’ll start 2010 with only 1 parent (with whom I am not close) and no more grandparents. I’ll grieve for aunts P lost in the last year (most of whom I never had a chance to meet), and the loss of one of my own adopted aunts. I’ll walk alongside as my adopted family deals with the progression of MS, a new baby with Down’s syndrome, personal boundaries, and difficult communication. And I’ll do my best as P’s family struggles with the possibility that his mom has fibromalygia. I’ll also try to do well in school, figure out my future, and embrace a new marriage and see all the bright spots that brings.
And I’ll hope that the tide of grief recedes a little, and stays away for a while. I’m exhausted from sadness.