A couple of years ago, I began feeling guilty about not spending enough time with my grandmother. She was getting older, and had struggled with a short bout of cancer a few years earlier. I wanted to make myself more available and become the adult who did the inviting and not the adult who waited to be invited. So, I took her out for lunch in what I had hoped would be the first in my monthly grandmother hangouts.
She decided on Chilis, so I drove us there and we both ordered fajitas. We spent three hours chatting, or more accurately, she spent three hours chatting. I didn’t get a chance to speak much nor did we talk about anything much other than death.
In the previous year, she had lost three friends/family members around her age. She talked a good talk about not fearing death, but it was obvious that she was terrified. The fact that so many of these people had died suddenly, had left her unprepared to deal with the grief that followed. So, she talked about how she didn’t fear death and how tragic it was and for three depressing hours. I had already heard it twice before at different holidays and would go on to hear this same story a couple dozen more times until she passed away fourteen months later.
My grandmother had lots of thoughts on the afterlife and was fearful to discuss it with people since she was worried they’d think she was nuts. It really wasn’t all that strange, but I can understand her apprehension.
My grandmother had another bout of cancer come upon her about a year ago. She was optimistic that she’d beat it, and rightfully so. She looked great for her age and was quite active. She was having some minor memory issues, but other than that she was pretty healthy. Sadly, she wasn’t able to fight off this wave of cancer and it ended up taking her in the early fall of 2019.
For whatever reason, I thought about this the other night as I lay in bed. Not so much her death, but that lunch at Chilis and how much time and effort she wasted talking about death. I don’t think it prepared her for it, nor did it give her any relief. If anything, it showed that her thoughts were dominated by it and soon death showed up for her.
She wasn’t able to give proper goodbyes, my family didn’t give her the type of funeral she requested, and the majority of her belongings, accumulated over the past sixty years, ended up in the dumpster outside of her apartment. An entire lifetime of things, were thrown out, sold at a yard sale, or picked over by a few family members. All the credit card bills she endured into her older age caused stress and pressure and the things she bought on credit ended up being throw out in the end. What a waste.
I’m not sure why I didn’t think more about the fragility of life following her passing until now, but I think maybe I needed a reminder of how useless so much of this life is. How powerless we are and how in the end, we all end up the same.
I wish my grandmother could have had more joy in her life. She had it hard and then made choices that did not make it any easier on her. She didn’t want to end up in a nursing home, and she didn’t, so I’m happy that wish came true, but when I think about the proud, powerful, independent woman I knew in my youth, I saw almost none of that the last few years of her life.
I like to think that maybe these thoughts coming to me now are a reminder of how to live and what not to do. It’s just one more lesson my grandmother can teach me.