Hi! I’m still here and as intermittent a blogger as ever. Before moving onto the meat of today’s post, a brief general update: It’s been over a year, and what a time it’s been. My post-grad experience has been one of stress, strain, and transition after continuous transition. Due to a gifted counsellor, a shift to a stable and supportive workplace, and a lot of doing the work, 2019 has been a year of growth and levelling; I don’t feel like I’m consistently running around putting out fires anymore, while also not sitting in my anxious feelings anticipating the worst. Perhaps it’s that I’m coming into a place of contentment and acceptance that isn’t contentious anymore; I’m crossing my fingers that I’m one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a human embodiment of the Serenity Prayer – acceptance, courage, wisdom all day every day.
An overarching theme of the past 365 has been grief. I’ve mourned a good friend who passed away; I’ve mourned my health and answers to my health issues that were taken away after an exploratory surgery; I’ve mourned my toxic relationship with codependency which I allowed to rule my life until my most recent birthday; I’ve mourned the relationships that were built and then lost due to that same reliance on codependency; I’ve mourned values that could no longer stand the test of my experiences; I’ve mourned my financial independence; I’ve mourned events that will never take place. I’ve mourned the lives I’ve dreamed up for myself that won’t come to pass in this reality. Surrendering, relinquishing, releasing, however you term it, I’ve
finally developed a tiny capacity to move on. This is a life-giving development for me. This process seems to have been preparing me for another great grief – the loss of my grandfather.
Two weeks ago tonight, I was preparing to hop on a red-eye to New Brunswick. Just two days before my Grampy had hemorrhaged for unknown reasons and fallen unconscious; he never woke up. When the ultimate outcome became clear, the decision was made to remove the ventilator. The rest of the family waited until my sister, dad and I made it to the hospital on the opposite coast. We kissed his shiny forehead. Held is his hand. Told him we loved him. Hugged and held each other. And we cried.
For about thirteen hours, this process continued as we took turns sitting vigil, and it was decided that my sister, cousin, and I would take the overnight at the hospital. I took a brief nap in a waiting room before switching places with my cousin. My sister took her turn to sleep on the cot in his room.
The moment I realized my sister was asleep and my Grampy and I were alone, I began to sob. Whether or not you believe in the power of a strong intuition is up to you, but to my (highly analytical) brain, it’s as real as sensory input. I could sense that our time was short, despite a nurse’s reassurances that my Grampy’s stats showed no indication of change and his belief that he likely had some time left, so I sat there and quietly told my Grampy how much I loved him, how thankful I was that he chose my mum and Grammy, and how privileged I was to be his granddaughter while I ran my hand along his forearm for about an hour.
About ten minutes after I had settled into some work on my laptop, I noticed his breathing shift and become more shallow. I instantly closed my computer and reached for his hand and began to count the seconds between his breaths. The nurses’ station behind me was quiet, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave him, so I decided to wait until someone reappeared to be inquisitive about his symptoms. His pulse was thready, and the space between his breaths became longer and longer and suddenly, less than fifteen minutes after his breathing shifted, we found ourselves across our most final of finish lines – sixty seconds – and he was gone. I called out and the nurse appeared; her monitor hadn’t registered the void yet, but I felt a vacuum in the room where he was just a moment before.
The week that followed was one of excessive sleep, carbs, tears, laughter, and hugs. We honoured my Grampy’s life in the best ways that we knew how. He would have loved to have seen us all together the way we were.
And for the living, life goes on. We packed up and headed back to BC a week ago, and the transition home has been hard. I’m struggling to embrace the Christmas Spirit that my Grampy and I shared that, previous to his death, I was vomiting all over anyone in moderately close proximity to myself. I’m struggling to balance informational boundaries with clients while being true to myself and my grieving process. I’m struggling to not drop everything and fly home to my Grammy. I’m struggling with the isolation of being in my apartment-for-one after all of the togetherness. I’m struggling with the loss of a man who meant the world to me; who taught me that loving someone doesn’t mean never getting angry with them, who won’t be at my wedding, or meet my kids, or make me anymore biscuits, or pick up my Bluetooth calls during long drives.
My Grampy was a unique and vibrant man. He lived with only partial lungs after repeated illness in childhood. He met and married my Grammy, and adopted my mum within seven months. He made the best biscuits in the Maritimes, and loved to take me on long drives to take pictures of scenic New Brunswick backroads. He had the biggest belly laugh and made unparalleled commitments to white v-necks and Corn Flakes. He made friends everywhere he went, and often hummed as he walked. He knew how to call me on my shit when I acted like a smartass, but he also trusted me and helped me feel emotionally validated. When I lived with him seven years ago, our relationship blossomed and he became one of my favourite confidants, and we talked on the phone regularly. I was so lucky to have him.
I don’t have a firm conclusion to this post, no overarching lessons to share or promises of change and replication to make – I’ve always carried this man’s influence in my demeanour. He’s in my intentionality and commitment to the people in to my life; he’s in my love of gardening; he’s the warmth in my interactions; he’s certainly in my stubbornness, and almost definitely the reason for any vibrancy I bring to the table. He’s also in Up! by Shania Twain which was our musical compromise when I was in Elementary School. He’s in the Salisbury Big Stop sweater that I’m currently wearing, and in the Christmas Spirit that I’m warring with as the string lights on my tree brighten the room.
It’s been said that grief is the price that we pay for love; the process of losing such a precious human who we had the privilege to learn from and love was never going to be easy. Though I will always wish my Grampy and I could have spent more time together and I had called even more, that’s the nature of loss – the root of which, I suspect, is the desire to do life all over again as much as it is to right some perceived failing. After this past year’s lessons in grief and mourning, I am not moving forward with regret, not picking up a new albatross to carry around for 27 years. I’m just moving, without contention, into a place of acceptance and overwhelming gratitude.
“Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way it is…. dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born. You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest. Being part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing.”