Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A dish of loss served with a side order of guilt.

I recently had to say goodbye to my grandmother.  She was a feisty lady who lived a rich life.  It wasn't always an easy life, but I believe she made it a good life.  I'm a practical person who was able to tell myself that she was going to a better place, that she would be re-united with her husband who passed before and that she would be able to enjoy all the things that she could do when she was younger and healthy.  I even believed myself for a while.

She was a constant in my life.  I may not have been able to visit often at various times, but I could always call her up and she was excited to hear from me (as I imagine she was with all six of her grandkids).  I have to say that I've been very fortunate in my life to not lose very many close relatives.  I am very blessed by this and very sheltered.  The last person who passed was my grandma's husband (not biologically my grandfather, but still filled that roll).  I was saddened by this, but did not feel the same sense of loss that I do now.  The problem is that I aways thought I had time.  Soon, I thought, I'll get there to visit soon.  I'll introduce my grandma to her 3rd great-grandson.  She had already seen oodles of pictures of my boys since although I'm lousy about visiting I'm great at sending out updated photos.  Unfortunately everything happened quicker than I thought it would and I wasn't able to bring the kids to visit her again.

When her time was near I was trying to plan a visit with the whole family, but in speaking to my cousin who lived in the same town as her I realized that there was not enough time for that, nor was it a place for kids.  I flew out to Calgary from Vancouver basically to say farewell.  When I got there I was relieved not to have brought the kids as the frail elderly woman who lay semi-conscious in the bed was not the vibrant woman of my childhood.  We had a nice visit as I filled her in on my life and that of my brother who was not able to visit.  I brought pictures and taped them up on her wall so she would have something to look at.  It comforted her to have the pictures of her loved ones near and it made me feel better to tell her one last time that I loved her and that her job here was complete and she could rest. 

The day after my visit, surrounded by loved ones she passed on to the other side.  I was glad she was no longer in pain and she was at peace.

Today I feel that grief as well as overwhelming guilt.  Today is her memorial that I was unable to attend.  I didn't realize that I would feel so guilty by not attending since I had already said goodbye, but I do.  I feel guilty that I was not able to help my cousins and uncle deal with the aftermath of death.  I am the oldest grandchild (by only a few months) and my father is the oldest child.  My father has chosen to move to Thailand and be part of a new family.  He has barely been in contact with his two kids or as far as I know his Mom, in fact, he has not even met his second grandson who is nearly 18 months old.  I feel that I should have been there as some sort of representation of our branch of the family.  Perhaps it is the burden of the oldest child or maybe just the burden of someone whose parent has decided that they no longer need to be responsible and are more like a kid than an adult.  This coupled with the loss of my grandma makes me saddened about how distant I feel from that branch of the family. 

I've decided that I will make a conscious effort not to be driven by guilt or perceived duty.  I have done what I can within the boundaries of my own life.  I cannot change the decisions of others and cannot make them want to reconnect with their family if they do not want to.  I try not to be bitter and disappointed in the actions of my father who has played the "poor me", "nobody calls me" victim too long.  I will show my sons what family means and they will know my family even if they do not know my father.  I wish they had known my Grandmother, but she knew and loved them even without seeing them often.  She had boundless love to give and enjoyed life as fully as she was able.  I know that her feisty spirit lives on in her four strong, smart and beautiful grand-daughters and that through us her great-grandkids will know her legacy.

To my grandma I raise my drink... a Caesar, one of her favorites!  Cheers Grandma... I love you.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry for your loss, Shannon. And I can completely relate as I told you on FB I lost my grandmaman two years ago and was able to say goodbye to her when she was in palliative care a month or so before she passed, but I also missed her funeral because I was too pregnant to fly to Montreal for it.
    Your grandma wasn't there to appreciate you being there at her funeral. She WAS there to appreciate you making the effort to visit her before she passed, and in the end, I think that matters more. It is hard to have closure, though, isn't it? But I don't think you have a reason to feel guilty. I was more upset about not being there for my mom at the time of the funeral, but your dad isn't there you said so that's not an issue.
    Now is the time for you to grieve your grandma in your own way. Maybe you can do something to remember her -- like say a prayer for her at church, or think of some other way. Do you have any pictures of her to remember her by in your house? Maybe now is the time to hang one up? Or make yourself a little scrapbook of memories of her?
    ((HUGS)) to you and your family. This is a difficult time but it will get better and the best gift you can give your grandma is keeping her memory alive.