Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Life Worth Living

My grandfather died a week ago.

All things considered, it was very peaceful. All things considered, I am incredibly lucky. For those reasons, and because it's how I process death, I haven't cried very much since it happened. I start grieving long before my loved one actually passes and by the time it happens, I'm well into a numb/dry spell. I spend days and weeks telling everyone in ear shot my little memories, our special 'nobody else cares' traditions so I'm talked out and often cried out when the day itself comes.

I have cried a little but for other reasons, other hurts. Much less involved with my grandfather and more involved with old wounds and tough memories, the kinds of things that come up when you spend time with close relatives. Since he died, I've spent a lot of time thinking about and remembering little things. saying goodbye quietly and gently.

Two weeks ago, I went to see him.

I sat at on PopPop's bed and picked up his hand. Wish #1 fulfilled: touching him one more time. He was incredibly frail but didn't mind that I sat close. He woke for a few minutes and greeted my brother and I. Wish #2: he knew us and was glad to see us.

Alex brought beautiful little Lorelei, my niece. Wish #3: PopPop met all of his great-grandchildren. The contrast between the two people was striking, bringing the reason for our trip into sharp clarity. A life beginning with joyful noise and one ending with respectful quiet. His voice was a whisper, Lorelei's is usually a delighted squeal.

Though the trip was brief and for me, very sad, it was also incredibly fulfilling. Time was precious so we didn't waste it. Sure, we had downtime; hours of talk and quiet with my parents, my brother, sister in law, aunt and uncle but that time was time well spent. These people knew him and respected him, loved him just as much as I did. To spend a few hours, better, a few days bonding with them was a balm to my heart and a reassurance that wonderful new things can come from the end of wonderful old things.

Throughout the trip, and even through profound grief, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude. To my parents for arranging the trip, to my grandfather, aunt and uncle for facilitating it, to my brother and his family for accompanying me on the journey. To the universe for setting the situation up so perfectly, at exactly the right moment. It might not have shown outwardly, but even as my heart broke, it was comforted by the kindness of near-strangers, by the touch of someone I deeply loved and the chance to be near him one last time. Few times in life is a person fortunate enough to get the sort of closure I did. Rarely is anyone lucky enough to actually get there in time or to say what they're really feeling. I carried that gratitude home with me and it's propelled me through the last few weeks, will probably drive my life for a long time after.

There were many wonderful, comforting moments during the trip. I was able to say things to him that I needed him to know. He told me what I knew but needed to hear. The climax came just before we left that first day. That was when I was able to find exactly the right words.

Thank you for saving my life.

I'd hoped for a kind response, an acknowledgement. Instead, I got his best, last gift.

You're welcome. It was a life worth saving.

No comments: