My last living grandparent died on Thursday. Gladys Newcomb was 87 years old. Her death was peaceful and was right after lunch. It is hard to feel sad about the death of someone who has lived such a long life, especially someone who, in my mind, changed tremendously with the loss of her longtime husband a year and a half ago and was longing to be with him again. Yet, we still mourn. It's what we do when someone dies. We all do it in our own ways but mourn we must. There's no way around it.
My grandma had been in a nursing home for the last year or so and had been in hospice care for the last couple of months. I managed to make it up to see her a month or two ago, which I am now very glad I did. When I saw her, although she had stopped wearing the wig that she had worn her whole life and was very frail, I still could recognize the woman that I remember so well.
As I detailed in my post about my grandfather's death in Jaunary of 2007, it's never how someone was at the end of life that sticks with us, for that is only a brief moment in a lifetime full of memories and stories. And as per usual, I will always remember my grandmother as a soft spoken woman who was dedicated to family and took the job very seriously. She was also the person who gave me my very first Star Wars action figure (Hammerhead, IIRC) I loved her very much and am very glad that I made a point to tell her that and to kiss her on the cheek the last time I saw her. And while her passing is not unexpected at her advanced age and in her declining health, it is still difficult for me.
The reason I think it is difficult is because, while I mourn the loss of my grandmother, I am also mourning the passing of yet another milestone in my life. She was the only grandparent I had left, and her death is one step closer to my own, even though I hope that day is decades in the future. We all live on this planet and then die, there's not getting around that either. But the trick is making each day count, living (as the one and only Cher muttered in "The Music's No Good Without You") each day "like it was my last." That is trite and cliched, yes, but that doesn't mean that it is not true.
Those who know me well know that I can have a significant melancholy streak, and today, it was wider than it has been in a while. It took me a while to figure it out, because I had a great night last night with a good friend who took me out for my birthday. Great food, great conversation as always, followed by Guitar Hero on the Wii. How can you go wrong? Well, my grandmother's death was obviously on my mind. This coupled with the devastating floods going on in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City and the fact that I really didn't want to go to work today really did a number on me. I was a big bucket of boiling over emotion by the end of the day and while that's nothing meditation can't fix, I still felt like it came from nowhere and left me with no place to put it. It has been quite a damn long time since the melancholy streak has been in the driver's seat, and it brought back some not so pleasant memories.
There's nothing to worry about. I'm fine, as I always am. But I still am sad for the loss of yet another family member, even though we knew that with my grandmother it was just a matter of time. In the end, you always wish you had just a little bit more time.
When I was walking home from work, I decided to work with the melancholy and put on Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Between Here & Gone." It's a song abut death and change and it always gets me, no matter what. (mp3) Anyway, I heard these lyrics today and found them appropriate for the occasion.
I thought a light went out, but now the candle shines.
I thought my tears wouldn't stop, then I dried my eyes.
And after all of this, the truth that holds me here,
Is that this emptiness is something not to fear.
Yeah, I'll keep wondering how we know where we belong,
After all the journeys made, and the journeys yet to come.
When I feel like giving up instead of going on,
Somewhere in between ... here and gone
May you be at peace Grandma. You're no longer on this plane, but you're somewhere in between here and gone, for you will never truly be gone as long as your memory lives on. Sorry that this post was more about me than it was you, but you clearly inspired it.