Thursday, July 07, 2005

On Saying Goodbye.

Jason grieved for Betty;
Jamie grieved for Grace.
Jason prayed to Heaven,
And Jamie prayed in case.

As many of you know, we lost Jason's Grandma Betty this past week, and we thank you very much for the many emails and comments of kind words and prayers.

Two years ago, we lost my Gram, Grace, almost to the exact day. Her funeral was on our 1st wedding anniversary. We did not attend.

We didn't attend because my grandmother had disowned me (my whole paternal family did, in fact), when I broke all contact with my father a few years prior. I invited them all to my wedding, all except my father of course, and one by one, the RSVP cards were returned blank, salt into the bleeding wound. I grieved for the loss of my entire family: aunts, uncles and cousins alike, all at once as if I had been hit by a major disaster.

So when my sister called me with the sudden news that my grandmother had passed away, I felt torn. On the one hand, I felt like I had already lost her. I also knew that it would be near impossible for me to walk into a funeral parlour filled with relatives who hated me, and my ex-father, with any grace or dignity. On the other hand, she had been my grandmother for almost 20 years, and I longed for closure if nothing else.

But I did not go. I stayed away, alone, and tried to feel something. My sisters resented me for not being there. I resented my position. It hurt.

I have carried that hurt for 2 years. I did not cry for my grandmother's death. I cried once, a few weeks after her death, when my mother told me about how coldly my father had treated my sister at the funeral. I did not cry for Grace.

I visited her grave a while after that, and found that her name and dates had simply been added to my grandfather's stone. I was mildly disappointed to see the discrepancy between the flourish of his, and the plainness of hers, though I was not altogether surprised. I did not shed a tear.

And then 2 years later, on our 3rd anniversary instead of our 1st, Jason's grandmother passed away in a very similar manner. The floodgates opened, and I realized that while we buried one grandmother, I was making my peace with two.

We have spent the last week in the bosom of family, eating tasteless food and picking out flower arrangements that no one ever noticed.

Betty died 49 days short of her 54th wedding anniversary, and as I watched Jason's grandfather Chuck grieve quietly, but gravely, I couldn't help but think that even 54 is not enough. She left behind a brilliant legacy of 5 children and 9 grandchildren, and will be sorely missed by many more, myself included.

Tonight, Jason and I took a walk in the moonlight, and I tried not to think of the tender way Chuck kissed his wife of nearly 54 years, so gently on her lips, for the last time right before they closed the casket. I know that Betty is in a better place, and I know that Chuck is not. He is alone in a house that seems empty without her. He has lost his partner, and his soul mate. He is crushed when he sees her chocolates in the fridge. He's been left behind. I hold Jason a little closer now that I know the truth: even 54 is not enough.

We made our way to the park by our house tonight, around 2am.. It is not lit up at night, so we tripped our way in the soft grass to the sandy area of the swingset. We took swings side by side, and we sailed back and forth into the tranquil night. We saw the greenish blue of the horizon turn into violet, and then to grey, and finally into the inky midnight blue of the vast ceiling above us. The sky was dotted with stars more numerous than our heads can imagine, and when we looked beyond the stars, we saw Betty, and said goodbye.

As for Grace, well, she is still a shadow in my heart. I hope that I am learning to let her go, bit by bit. If nothing else, Betty has taught me there is no such thing as an easy goodbye. She was only 74, young at heart and not very old yet in body, but still it gave out. When Betty's heart stopped beating, Chuck's heart broke. She was surrounded by loved ones, her life was long, her marriage was solid, her suffering was ending, she believed, but still...

54 is not enough.

No comments: