"She was up in age."
"She had a full life."
"At least it was peaceful."
I work in a hospital around sick people. As a result, I am near infirmary and death more than most people. A lot more.
I'm also 44 years old. Old enough to no longer have living grandparents without it seeming unusual. But in the grand scheme of grandparents and aging, we were fortunate. My last living grandparent, my maternal grandmother, passed away just shy of her 91st birthday.
The combination of seeing people navigate death and dying--and also living long enough to experience it with the elders in my life--has taught me one thing if nothing else: There is never a convenient time to lose someone that you truly, deeply love.
Particularly a beloved parent.
Sure. When health fails and independence is robbed, some piece of you knows that transitioning would mean less suffering. Depending upon your beliefs, you envision lively celestial reunions with loves of lives and dear ones who left too soon. And all of that seems mostly reasonable in your mind. Problem is, the heart is always late to get the memo. The loss is filtered through love's myopic view, which blurs the present and sees far into the past.
My grandmother's funeral wasn't terribly sad. Kind words were spoken and afterwards when we all retreated to her home, those aforementioned words were spoken repetitively. And I guess, a little bit, they felt quasi-comforting to utter but the reality was that no matter how up in age she was, how full her life had been, or even how peaceful her passing, I'd never known a life without her in it.
My grandma lived in Tuskegee, Alabama where we all went to college. My dear aunt took excellent care of her until the day she passed quietly in her sleep, and has since continued to live in the family home. This year, like always, I came over during my visit there for our college homecoming. When I walked inside, almost everything was the same. The same foods were on the counter, many of the same familiar faces and even the smell of my grandma's home hadn't left. The olfactory part was a comfort. But that was about it.
Immediately I had a strong urge to leave. My heart wasn't ready for that piece of my world to not include my grandmother and her high, tinkling laughter. Yes, my mind said those other things, but my heart was still far, far behind.
I knew my grandmother wouldn't live forever. But even when she passed, I realized that there is never a convenient time to begin a life without someone you deeply love in it. No matter how old or chronically ill. The finality of it feels suffocating in ways that can't be fully reconciled even with the strongest faith.
Someone special to me lost her mother today. She was up in age. She had a full life. And it was peaceful.
But regardless of all of that, somebody has lost her mother. And tonight, my heart is weeping for her and feeling sad. Because even though it may have been time, I know for certain that the time never seems to be right.