Bill and Ted with the (often misunderstood) Grim Reaper
It is true.
ALL of us.
At some point, we all leave here.
And, the name we have given it is death.
Most people have it in their minds (and, perhaps, their hearts) that only the old and elderly, the infirmed and sickly, should die. I think it helps us through the process to approach it this way; usually when someone of a good age passes we are grateful for all the time they had here, grateful for the long life they had or if they were sick, grateful their suffering has ended.
But not only the old and the sick die.
Like my maternal grandmother. She died when she was 93 years old. She had also been sick.
So, at the time of her death, there was a lot of expressed gratitude for the end of her suffering.
Death can be a very telling event. It can expose things, characteristics of people you made not have otherwise known.
A bit of back story: my family, my relationship with them (past and present) is FUCKED UP. Believe me. I know I am not the only one. Some of my thought about what family means have been expressed in a previous post, They Like Me, They Like Me Not. Anyways. I had reconnected with my biological mother, step-father and the siblings on that side.
My grandmother lived an hour’s drive away from me. Two and a half hours from her daughter (my biological mother). I visited her almost every week. Through a difficult pregnancy. Later with a wee small baby. Running errands with her. Taking her to appointments. Sometimes I was fortunate enough to have my husband along for help. Other times I was on my own with a frail 90-something year old and her walker, and an infant, his carrier and a stroller. But. No matter the weather. No matter what I had on my schedule. I went.
As her health began failing, her daughter expressed something to my husband: I do not have time to deal with this, she is very consuming; it would be a lot easier for me if she would just pass. REALLY? I wish I could say I was shocked when he shared this. Sadly. I was not. In fact, it was par for the course. This woman must be at the centre of attention, apparently no dying person – not even her own mother – is going to take that light off of her. Sure. Let’s get them out of the way. Right? Disgusting.
My grandmother died in a hospital bed in November of 2011. At the time, we three had been quite sick. My husband was off work with a severe chest cold. My 18-month old equally under the weather. I was not feeling that great myself. But the hospital called me. My grandmother had asked for me. The end was near. I collected myself and made the treacherous drive. Solo. When I arrived, I knew my biological mother was there, as were her older brothers (whom she refused to deal with, so during our period of reconnection I primarily dealt with them, played messenger between the siblings). As I approached her room, I could her my grandmother from the hallway. Her eyesight is failing, the nurse warned me. So I announced myself upon entering her room: Hey Grandma! And, was received quite well.
Oh! It’s my Rebecca. I would know that voice anywhere! That’s who I have been waiting for!
Apparently that really bothered people. My bio-mother announced she had to return home. Her super-important, part-time secretarial position was not something she would neglect. She left. I stayed for as long as I could. Comforting. Wiping her mouth. Offering what I could to ease her. She told me to go home, and said my grandfather at the foot of her bed. He had died 15 years earlier. I took the hint. I kissed her forehead. Told her to go be with Granddad. Go play a round of golf together. Then drove home.
In the middle of the night my phone went off. It was a text message. Grandma had died. The message came from my uncle’s wife. I did not hear from my bio-mother for nearly a week.
A few weeks later our relationship began to really fall apart. She went off to a place I do not understand. Tried to convince my husband that I was unstable. He should take the baby and leave. Those not-so-subtle attempts did not settle well with either my hubby or I.
And so, as it had when I was a fifteen year old child, our (resurrected) relationship died. Again.
LOSS COMES IN MANY WAYS
There are different kinds of loss. The expected. The unexpected. Loss that endures. Loss that ends quickly. Loss comes in many ways.
We have all lost someone. And, if you haven’t, you will. It is an unfortunate inevitable.
Sometimes loss is expected; my grandmother’s passing was that way. But there are The Unexpected losses. I have suffered a few of these. Family. Friends. Potential babies. So has my husband. In addition to those we have suffered together.
My husband lost a lot of people when he was young. It became a morbid pattern. Two days before his seventh birthday the only grandparent he ever knew, his maternal grandfather, Grandpa, died after suffering from heart failure. Like myself and many others, my husband’s parents were divorced when he was very young. Like me, he has no memories of his original family intact. He grew up accustomed to the duplicity childhood that is often associated with separation or divorce. Until he was roughly nine years old. When his father died. Succumbing to injuries he suffered when he was hit by a city bus walking home. Two years later, his awful and abusive step-father died. Before the age of twelve, he became the man of the house.
Three great losses in four years. Age seven, Goodbye Grandpa. Age nine, Farewell Father. Age eleven, Adios Asshole! Gone. Gone. GONE!
But the greatest loss was yet to come. His mum had a wonderful friend. He became a father-figure to my husband. That man’s name was Bill. William in fact. He was there for my husband throughout tumultuous times. And his teenage years. They became a family. The three of them happily road-tripping on Sundays. Camping in Algonquin Park in the summers. Bill was a kind and caring man. He loved them both. Treated them well. However. Bill was a Type 1 Diabetic. And he did not manage it well. Bill was in kidney failure in the early 90s. All but dying in my husband’s twenty year old arms. Neither he nor his mum took it very well. Bill meant a lot to them both. He meant the world to my husband. So much so our wee one is in part named after him.
And so, even though he has died, he lives on in more than just memories.
I DIED THEN LOST MY MEMORY
I will do something in my lifetime that not many people do: I will die TWICE.
My heart stopped completely (for about seven minutes, if wonky memory serves me correctly) during an episode of DKA. Fortunately, it started again. I came back. And though my memories of the preceding years (all nineteen of them!) were gone, I was not. Lucky me.
My paternal grandfather told me during a visit to my hospital room that I must have something great to accomplish and that’s why I was saved. He, like many others in my family, gave credit to God for my return. HE had saved my already lost life. Had I then been chosen for resurrection? Whoa. I don’t think so. Probably more scientifically bland than that. Shortly after I was released from the hospital my father told me I should join him at church. Go and thank God. I obliged. But I must admit that I do not feel the same way.
Do I know what happened? Nope. And the doctors were equally mystified. But I didn’t need answers. They were not important to me. So. I carried on. Remembering bits and gathering pieces along the way. Oddly joining a journey already in place. Odder still. One you started. You just don’t remember it. My puzzle may never be complete.
But I scrapped that puzzle. Saved the pieces from it that I could. Those valuable pre-DKA memories. I hold them dear. The lovely thing is that I have them, and have the opportunity to continue making many more.
George Harrison prepared himself to die. Longer than he was battling brain cancer. He adapted his life. He mentally and physically prepared to leave this world. This material world. And, as he faced his mortality, he appeared to solidify his sense of spirituality.
A lot of people think Harrison did something amazingly humble. Admirable. And he did. He pursued his own path.
That is not an easy thing to do.
But I wonder. How much did he miss along the way while preparing himself for a happy and peaceful exit from this life? According to his widow, and others close to him, he missed nothing. He fashioned a life actively pursuing some kind of inner peace. Harmony. A balance between the many levels of ourselves.
Perhaps he knew what a resilient thing a soul is.
Life, and in turn death, would achieve simplicity if only we would acknowledge the complexity of it all. Not understand. But acknowledge. Baby-steps my friends, baby-steps. First let us acknowledge our own complicated ways.
DEATH BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD NOT TASTE SO BITTER
We will all die.
That’s a bit abrasive. Morbid even. But it is true. And scary. Maybe.
We will all transition.
Ah. Much different. Better? Interesting? Curiosity piqued? Still afraid?
A caterpillar lives a life. Happily munching away on leaves. Then. The time comes. A cocoon must be built. The life of the caterpillar is essentially over. And it is. But it isn’t. This will be a new vessel. A vessel for change. What emerges is a butterfly. The beginning of another life. Metamorphosis.
We will all die.
Still not used to it. Still a bit abrasive.
We will all METAMORPHOSIZE.