I am always quick to tell my clients that there is a huge difference between grieving and when someone dies.
Because of my job, I can listen to people talk all day long about death and the horrible circumstances surrounding some deaths.
But grief...oh, grief is different. Grief, even when you see it coming, is all encompassing. It takes your breath. Grief makes you cry for 36 hours, even when you're sleeping. It steals your appetite and makes you ravenous, all at the same time. It starts the slideshow of memories and sets it on repeat. Grief, even when you're at peace with it, is fierce and does not leave quickly.
My grandma died. My favorite person in this world...gone.
Somehow, in this sea of grief, there is peace with her death. Alzheimer's is an ugly disease, and I always said that it would be a fascinating disease if it weren't happening to the one person that I loved the most in this world. The grief comes from a place of remembering who she used to be and being sad that person doesn't exist anymore. And didn't outwardly exist for a long time.
My cousin asked me what my favorite memory of Grandma Ruth was. And I couldn't pick just one.
There are so many...
I used to dream about her a lot. I read somewhere that it was a "psychological fact" that if you were dreaming about someone, then they were dreaming about you. I'm pretty sure that this is not a fact, and was indeed an idea invented by 14-year-old girls. And, while I have a million reasons to hope this is not true, I always hoped that it was with her. I was hopeful that, somewhere, over time and space and this ugly disease, we were able to connect somehow.
My grandma remarried when I was three. And, honestly, my grandpa is the real hero of this love story. My grandma had been a widow for 6 years, and I think the other grandkids had gotten used to having Grandma all to their own. Being the youngest, I don't really remember Grandma before she got married again. My grandma had always said she didn't want to marry a farmer or a truck driver, but she ended up marrying both. My grandpa was really her knight in shining armor, and I'm so grateful that she got a chance at love like that. He would visit her in the nursing home, every single day. That's commitment--doing the same thing over and over, despite the total lack of feedback. No matter how hard it is. No matter how heartbreaking it is. I remember, when I was little, my grandpa saying that he'd promised Grandma that they'd be married for 50 years, even if they had to finish up some of those in Heaven. Now, I know that most Christian theology says that there aren't married relationships in Heaven, but I think there might be exceptions for devoted old men.
About a year ago, my aunt sent me a package of old letters that I had sent my grandma over the years. I always get compliments on my handwriting, which I attribute to the years and years of letter-writing that occurred between me and Grandma over the years. But in this package, there were also all of the things that my grandma had clipped out of the local newspaper over the years. Some of them were significant...like scholarships I had won or times my picture was in the paper. But what stopped me was the tiny cut-out of the time I made the honor roll in the sixth grade. I was a great student--I always made the honor roll. And she always cut it out. And she always put it on her refrigerator, like it was such a big deal. There are few times in this world when you get a cheerleader like that.
And then there's the rock. When I was little, my grandma redid one of their rooms with a peach color. I found a rock in the field behind our house that was a light peach color and just KNEW that my grandma had to have it to match her new room. So we washed it and varnished it, and I gave it to her. And you would have thought that I gave her a million dollars. And that rock sat in her living room, on the floor by the TV, until I was almost finished with college and they moved. That's a good grandma right there--to act excited about and then display a varnished ROCK for 15 years.
My aunt also shared with me this picture that I drew of my grandma. I'm not sure how old I was...obviously, not old enough to spell "Grandma" correctly. Adam's questions were things like, "Did she wear a lot of turtlenecks?" (no) and "Did she wear a lot of make-up?" (yes, when I was little). Again, it makes my heart ache with love that she saved these all these years...to know that I was so treasured that she saved my little kid drawings of her.
So here's to 87 years of life--two husbands, three kids, seven grandkids, twelve great-grandkids (three of whom are named after her), and three great-great-grandkids.
And a legacy of love.