Thoughts on death, grief, family, and losing my number one reader
My Grandmother “Granny” passed away on December 28, 2021 at the age of 100. Typing that sentence and uttering similar statements aloud have been difficult during the 18 days that followed as I haven’t quite come to terms with the finality of it all. In my head I still feel like I could pick up the phone and give her a call to talk about the latest Tiger Woods news, hear what her 5 kids, 8 grandkids and 5 great grandkids have been up to, or laugh about the newest misstep she felt our political leaders made that week.
It’s also difficult writing this post since half the reason I started and maintained this blog was because I knew how much she enjoyed reading it. Writers always have their audience in mind, and while I’m no Stephen King, Granny has always been at the forefront of every keystroke on this website.
While I miss her dearly and will continue to do so, I’m very at peace with how her final days on this Earth played out (not that they need to please me or were my responsibility) and I’m incredibly grateful for flexible work arrangements, Covid testing vans in NYC, and the magic of airplanes for allowing me the chance to be with her during her last week.
That’s what I’ll remember most, just how normal that last week was. Like most people who live to 100, Granny lived life on her own terms and that final week was no different. I was able to sit and soak up hours of stories ranging from her childhood growing up on the farm, to going through high school in a one-room schoolhouse where 1/3 of her classmates were “killed overseas” as she often bluntly described it, to raising five kids while moving constantly, from Moose Jaw to Germany, as a military family.
We laughed about the mischief she and her siblings and cousins would get into in the 1920s, and she sprinkled in her opinion pieces on everyone in the family (and extended family) as matriarchs have been known to do.
The three days of amazing visits, including a lovely Christmas dinner, were no different than the visits I experienced with her every time I’d fly home for the last 12 years. Joyous, family-oriented, simple, peaceful and inspiring.
Most people love weddings. If you watch attendees during the ceremony, with genuine smiles on their faces, gazing at the happy couple, it’s clear that they’re soaking up the scene while also considering other instances of true love they’ve either experienced or hope to experience one day. Or maybe I’m overthinking it and most people are just day dreaming about the open bar to follow.
Either way, witnessing the death of a loved one incites similar patterns, I believe. Once death is imminent, everything is basically out of your control as a caregiver (and even if you’re the one dying). Because of this, you start to think about your own mortality or the death of other loved ones. For me, it always triggers the importance of family that I so often take for granted. Especially being beside my Mom and Aunt that week, it was of course extremely sad to see them lose their own mom, and I immediately imagined what I would feel if I were to lose a parent.
It sucks because you know these negative experiences are inevitable, so all you can do is try to use that feeling of pending grief to maximize the enjoyment of the time we do have left together. We probably don’t need another online piece or motivational post that says “live in the moment” but I’m going to have this blog post to revisit in the future. I hope it allows me to reflect upon how I felt during a very difficult time and remind myself to pick up the phone, book a flight, and to sweat the small stuff just a little less given what’s really important.
Granny gave so much to this world, worked relentlessly for her education and as a teacher, all in the name of her family. I could list her numerous other traits I hope to emulate, but the importance of each one would get lost in the overall quantity. She was simply the best. Everyone loved her, not only as a family member or great friend or sarcastic comedian, but as a shining example of how to live life: filled with happiness, sharp as a tack and physically fit until the last day. I can’t count how many people (especially the ones who only met her for the first time in the last couple of years) say “I hope I’m like her when I’m 100”. We will all miss Granny.
Granny had a strong faith in the Christian church her entire life, which I’m sure helped guide her through the Depression, raising 5 kids while her husband fought wars overseas, beating cancer multiple times, and all of life’s other hardships. If there’s even a hint of wifi in heaven, I know she’ll be reading this one.
I love you, Granny.
Thanks for reading.
A lovely and touching eulogy Mike.
Beautifully written and said. I’m crying. Xo