“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
the first thing to know is that my grandmother died. the funeral was this past monday. funerals are awful and weird – dozens of people (my grandmother’s nieces and nephews, cousins of my mom and her siblings, family friends, my uncle’s in-laws) all trying to balance the excitement of having everyone together in the same room with the fact that oh, right. this is supposed to be sad.
the service was held in the church she and my grandfather attended for something like 60+ years. it was led by her pastor, a man i had never met before but decided i didn’t mind (in the way that you decide you don’t mind cabbage in bags of mixed salad greens; small doses). the whole day got easier when i realized that nobody needed or expected me to do anything except follow instructions – stand in line with my parents while we all file into the church; get into the car to go to the cemetery for the internment; get back into the car and go back into the church and attend lunch with 200 people i have no memory of ever meeting prior to this moment. help people pass around plates of sweet pickles and chopped ham sandwiches. answer polite questions about who my parents are (those people over there, one of whom is talking about her lymph nodes) and how my mom is doing (kind of awful but mostly because of the chemo).
i was not that close to my grandmother. i was one of the ‘away family’ growing up in british columbia; seeing her once a year was a big deal. i did not have a good conception of her as a person back then and even when we moved to ontario we didn’t connect that well. she was passionately devoted to church work but even knowing that didn’t make her more accessible. i spent most of my life having no idea how to talk to her.
at the funeral i learned that most people considered her to be an incredibly generous, extremely organized person who worked tirelessly for several volunteer projects. she sewed bags that she sold and then donated the proceeds to cancer research. she liked singing; she made chopped ham sandwiches for every church function for 50 years.
beyond the usual cliched regrets i wish that someone would have taken the time to put her life into some context for me. i think we would have gotten along as people.