Monday, March 14, 2005

Thank You

I just got back from my trip to Florida to attend my grandmother's memorial service. I hadn't been on-line since the 9th. So what a welcome back! Your supportive words found in my comments mean so very much to me. You have truly warmed a very achey heart. Thank you so much - each and every one of you.

[sigh] There is so much I want to say and share about this experience of my grandmother's death. For today, I think the most I can handle, however, is to share the piece I read at my grandmother's service.

"Bobby was uniquely eccentric. She was certainly not your typical grandmother. She was the wild grandmother who:

-danced all over the world
-had up to nine cats and dogs at any given time
-drove a sports car until just shortly before she died (at 92)
-and as I recently disccovered, managed to get a driver's license printed stating she was ten years younger than she was!

She was also one of my best friends.

I keep thinking of stories but I'm not sure which to share.

-the pack of dogs gathered around her as she read the newspaper in her famly room
-the Space Sticks, Dr. Pepper and Starcrunches
-the time she tried to convince me to taste a milkbone.

I spent so much time gathering stories for her biography that I want to now say something new. Something profound.

The way it warmed my heart when she told me that she loved me on the phone. I knew it was true. She didn't need to say it. But the words felt like I'd been graced with a gift.

Bobby and I took turns exchanging letters. One week she'd write to me The next week I'd write to her. Sometimes she'd send printouts of funny emails [she never learned how to forward messages electronically]. Sometimes she'd tell me about her latest animal rights crusade and try to get me involved in it. But always, she offered words of support and encouragement.

I will miss her letters greatly. But I know I will always carry the great love of my grandmother in my heart.

Now I'd like to share a poem that has provided me with some comfort during this difficult time.

Autumn Sonnets #2 by May Sarton

If I can let you go as trees let go
Their leaves, so casually, one by one
If I can come to know what they do know,
That fall is the release, the consummation
Then fear of time and the uncertain fruit
Would not distemper the great lucid skies
This strangest autumn, mellow and acute.
If I can take the dark with open eyes
And call it seasonal, not harsh or strange.
(For love itself may need a time of sleep),
And tree-like, stand unmoved before the change.
Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep,
The strong root still alive under the snow.
Love will endure - if I can let you go."

I had practiced reading this twice over the night before in front of my sister and my sweetie. I thought I'd be able to get through it fairly well. I've done lots of public speaking, so I assumed I'd just flip on my public speaking persona. No such luck. I sobbed as I read.

The poem meant a lot to me in particular because we had been going through my grandmother's belongings for days and I was finding the experience acutely painful and distressing. I didn't like to think of all of these physical objects which somehow represented her being scattered about the country. As my sweetie pointed out, I suddenly had an understanding of people who leave bedrooms exactly the same for months after someone has died. And I developed a new nostalgia for the days when generation after generation of people lived in the same house. At least then I might have felt my grandmother with me more strongly now. But I have brought her cat home with me - along with some clothes that make me think of my grandmother and copies of photos and such. These things help to keep her close. When my aunt passed away a few years ago, I'd occasionally feel her nearby watching. I haven't felt Bobby in that same way - at least not yet; I mostly feel her inside my heart.

When I first got the news, I pretty much cried for 24 hours straight. Then I had an agenda - get to Florida and that helped keep the tears at bay. Now the crying comes in jags. I know grief takes time and am trying not to push myself too hard.

At the memorial, I felt a lot of pressure (from the minister who gave the service and from a few random others) to be happy for my grandmother's long and full life and to not feel sad. I even felt this pressure from my grandmother as she asked me explicitly not to cry before she died. I felt some anger about this on the flight home. Of course I'm happy for my grandmother, but it's unrealistic to expect me not to feel sad, too. I felt very close to my grandmother. So her death is definitely a loss for me. I know in time I will find peace as she has. But for now, please let me cry.

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