Saturday, May 9, 2015

Saying Goodbye

It's been about two weeks since my grandmother passed away -- my last grandparent. In a lot of ways I'm lucky to have had a member of this generation into my near middle age, but in so many ways she should still be here (she passed away for five minutes the day before she actually passed away, still having a very strong and healthy heart). Alzheimer's got her, and I'm still not sure what she directly died of. It doesn't matter. This weekend is a made up holiday, one so saccharine it oozes with guilt and loss and doubt and lonliness as much as it does genuine love and admiration.

I recently read an article that says we don't remember events or people, but simply the last time we remembered them; in this way memory is a false guide, continually diminishing and re-arranging experience until who we are now is who we have always been. I suppose in all of us memory is a false guide, yet the feelings those memories are based on must surely be the true core, the perhaps unalterable constant in the center.

I'm not sure my grandmother's death has hit me yet, and I'm not sure it ever will. It's the most surreal thing I think I've ever lived through. All I know is this weekend my mother is without a parent for the first time in her life, and I can't imagine that feeling; I know I never want to experience it myself.

Grandma on far right, my mom third from right
What will time bring, what will we be ready for, what will we remember before it happens so that after it happens we have a truer essence of time, life, and being alive?

My grandmother was truly kind and forgiving. She made family her life as one would expect from a grandmother. She was involved. She was full of living the present. She made big mistakes and took risks. She lost children to death and estrangement. She made it all work out through a faith and hope I need to reconnect with before I can live a more authentic and purpose-driven life. There is an absence in my life that's growing bigger, but it has less to do with people than it does with actionable hope and letting go of who I used I to be.

We erase life as we live it, author Tim O'Brien says; we lose moments as we experience and move past them. All of the images in my grandmother's photo albums from the last 70 & 80 years hold black and white shadows of people mostly forgotten and nameless, but there in that moment they are so full of presence that they are just like me -- they are me, each of us a wave rolling on to the shore, rising, loud, heavy with gravitas until we fade into the coastline and become the wave behind us.


Melissa F. said...

So very sorry for your loss. Like you, I was so grateful to have had my grandparents as long as I did. There is, indeed, something surreal about losing a grandparent as an adult. It's been 11 years since my grandmother died and I think about her in some way every day.

Kylee Baumle said...

I'm so sorry, Ben. I know that day is coming for me too. At 100 years of age, my grandma can't possibly be with us for long. I know this, yet I can't imagine her not being here.

kimberlyfawn said...

I am sorry for your loss but take good care of your Mom. I lost my Father 10 months ago and I look fine on the outside but I'm an deep open wound inside still. Enjoy every possible moment with your parents and your children!

Diana Studer said...

letting go of who I used to be - but you will still be a writer? Such a glorious gift with words.

My sympathies on your loss - which I can only imagine as I never met any of my grandparents. Their age and my geography conspiring against a meeting.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Thanks, all, for your kind words and thoughts. :)