Last week, we lost two family members.
We witnessed the slow decline of my husband’s grandfather over long years.
Seeing him suffer, seeing him fade away–that was torture. While his entire body and mind failed, our distress was restricted to the heart-zone. We knew he was ill, and we knew our every visit with him could be the last.
So we prepared. We said goodbye in earnest whenever we saw each other, even though he had no idea who we were most of the time.
Of course, he managed to pull through multiple times, even when we were convinced it was the end.
The news of his death landed like a slap. Yet, we’d been expecting that call for such a long time that there was a kind of bittersweet relief attached to it. His suffering had finally let up. He’d been 94 years old, and had lived a full life.
My aunt had been much younger. She’d had some aches and pains, sure, and had been diabetic, but had been in good health otherwise. Then, at the end of 2018, she got a minor injury that wouldn’t heal. A scrape, really.
A set of events followed that led to an amputated limb, more wounds that refused to heal, additional amputations, and in a span of a few months, death. Random. Obscure, even. Such a waste of life.
This was supposed to be her retirement, you know? She was supposed to see her grandkids grow up. She was supposed to visit us in Canada, and we were going to show her the Rockies.
Now she’s gone.
We were so unprepared for her death. I went through my hard drive multiple times in the last week or two, trying to find recent photos of her. Moments I know existed, where I sat in her arm, where she held Kayla, where she laughed in that typically her way, but I couldn’t find pictures.
We didn’t take a photo on our last few visits, because we had more time.
We ate the food and laughed and joked, but even though we said our iloveyous, we didn’t hold on as long as we should have. We didn’t have that prolonged goodbye hug.
We had more time.
But we had no time, we just didn’t know.
It kind of punches you in the gut, death. Steals your breath. You can see it coming or it can sneak up on you–doesn’t matter. Death sucks. And yes, it’s inevitable, and yes, it’s unavoidable, but holy cow, it hurts.
Since I’m half a world away, I didn’t get to say goodbye in person. I’d like to dedicate this blog to two beautiful souls and say goodbye now.
Grandpa Willem, I didn’t know you very long before you began to forget. I watched you suffer when you had no idea who I was, but you always had a smile. You were kind, good, and I’ll always treasure that moment of clarity when you finally grasped the fact that Kayla was your great-grandchild and not some random baby. The way your face lit up, that twinkle in your eyes–that is worth a fortune to me. Rest in peace.
And Aunt Flora.
You had the most generous heart I’ve ever known. You always had a joke ready, and you were always up for a hug. Whatever life threw at people, you were willing to carry them. You made everyone feel so loved, so special. Nobody supported people like you did. Whatever we attempted, whatever little craft we tried to sell–you were the first to buy our products. Even books that really needed editing. You never got to read the one I’m proudest of.
You spread joy where you walked, and you kept us glued together. You were one of the pillars of our family.
I wish I’d had the chance to tell you exactly how much you meant to me. I wish I could give you one more massage, make one more cup of coffee, do your hair or makeup once more, or paint your toenails one last time. I wish I could sit and giggle on your couch. I wish I could help with the dishes after you provided mountains of food for the family and the entire street.
You were one of a kind. I can’t fathom a world without you. I love you, and won’t ever forget you. Until we meet again.