On grief and death

Thursday, March 12, 2015




I had a dream last night that my Grandma Olive, who passed away six and a half years ago, was in the same nursing home as my Grandma Honey.  I went to visit them both, and my Grandma Olive and I escaped to the movie theater in the nursing home (which doesn't really exist).  She and I sat there and talked about how my Grandma Honey was doing.

I woke up this morning with a small aching in my heart from the dream.  It felt so real, as if my Grandma Olive was living and breathing along side me today.  I drove to a meet with a young girl I mentor on Thursday mornings around 6:30am and thought about grief.  How the grief never goes away, but life puts layers on top of it and makes it feel more distant and less raw.  However, like "The Princess and the Pea," even though it's not right there, you still feel it.  And if you want, you can dig around and peel back the layers to feel the grief at its strongest.  Other times, life just bulldozes in and lets you know grief is never far.

This morning, my mom called to let me know my Grandma Honey passed away somewhat unexpectedly.  My chest went empty, my throat had no chance at suppressing the sobs, and my lungs couldn't grasp enough air.  This is grief.  This is shock.  The knowing that this is the course all life must take and still never being prepared. 

My Grandma Honey, similar to my Grandma Olive, was one of the most inspiring women I will ever meet.  In a way, they were the same.  They took care of their families and did the stereotypical maternal roles.  And while my Grandma Olive inspired many of the adventurous traits that directed so much of my 20s, my Grandma Honey is the one whose traits I have yet to fully embrace.  She inspires the part of me that longs to be a mother, to cook for my children and grandchildren while wearing a cute apron, to be settled and satisfied in a simpler life, and to know all the joy and fullness I could possibly desire is no further than the faces I call family.

Grandma Honey had a habit of saving newspaper clippings, articles, and random tidbits she came across that she liked or wanted to pass along to someone else.  In all my Grandma's paperwork, my mom found a page from a desk calendar, addressed to her and her sisters, dated in the '90s.  It's a poem called "The Legacy," and it couldn't be more perfect to embody what she would want unless she'd written it herself.

When I die, give what is left of me to my children.
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers walking beside you.
Put your arms around anyone,
and give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you with something,
something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known or loved.
And if you cannot live without me, then let me live on
in your eyes, your minds and your acts of kindness.

You can love me most
by letting hands touch hands
and letting go of children that need to be free.

Love does not die, people do.
So when all that is left of me is love...
Give me Away...

At the top of it, she wrote, "You know what to do - Thank God!"

And while this grief is feels so heavy and overwhelming, I can still thank God because of who she was and how much she loved.   And I am so very lucky that I had her for 30 years, because how much less rich would my life have been if I never knew her at all.

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