(Okay, now just for the record, I really have tried to make a post. I have three separate, unfinished posts sitting in drafts. I am currently hiding in my parents' basement while my husband takes our darling, beautiful children for a walk. Cross our fingers that we get this one done.)
In today's episode, we're talking about grief.
I was at a funeral today. My husband's grandfather died suddenly on Sunday, and he was buried today, on Friday. It was sudden, but admittedly not wholly unexpected. It appears that he died alone, which is something that I always feared for him. I can only pray that he could see the choirs of angels surrounding him as he passed.
It's been very interesting observing the family. I had never been the "outsider" watching grief. Not that I wasn't very fond of the man, but he was my husband's grandfather, and I didn't really know him that well. My emotional attachment wasn't the same. I felt very conscious about that. My grief was less about Grandpa, and more for the family; I have lost three of my grandparents and I understand that loss.
So here I've been, floating is this somewhat detached state of grief-for-the-family, when very suddenly my own grief for things is forced back into my consciousness.
A man, whose face I didn't remember, but whose thick, Scottish burl stirred something deep in my memory, shook my hand and told me that he remembered me.
Remembered me? He's a nurse, he explained. He smiled gently. Your grandfather, he explained. I'm a nurse on the Palliative Care Ward. I remember you and your family, what was it, three? four years ago?
Five, I tell him. He died five years ago.
Acht, he says. How time passes quickly.
Suddenly, my own grief for my grandfather bubbled to the surface. I could suddenly see the room on the ward, warm and comfortable but still smelling of hospital. I could close my eyes and sense that last moment of his life, and I could taste the fear and panic of the moment as it swept over me. I could remember my father saying, "This is it," and calling for my brothers in the next room. It wasn't like in the movies: he didn't just slump over, peacefully, and die. It was agonizing seconds as his breathing stopped and started, ragged and painful, only to stop and start again. My father kept telling him it was okay to let go.
And then it was done.
Those few moments haunted me for months, even years, but time and distance had helped me move past it. I rarely gave it thought anymore. But a few words from a gentle stranger flooded them back into my consciousness.
Awhile later, I come across a lovely lady in deep conversation with my husband. She smiles sweetly as I sit down next to her. They are talking about our daughter, Abigail, and Autism.
What kinds of things, she asks, did you see that made you think Autism?
I started to explain Abby's history, the seizures, and she smiles and said she had been getting the emails (from whom I don't know). As we talk, I realize that she has two adopted children (now adults) with Autism.
I learned many things from her in the twenty minutes that we talked. I hope to share her wisdom with you some day, but it was plentiful and I am running out of words.
But we talked about grief. I learn that she is a woman of great faith, but even she felt tested by God with the challenges imposed by her children. And she told me she grieved for her children, herself, her family. I realized that I am still grieving too.
When Abby was first diagnosed with Infantile Spasms, I felt like my world ended. I looked at the television and newspapers with distrust and betrayal: here was happening the most important thing in the history of the world, they they weren't reporting on it! And I grieved. When they told me I would likely have a child with disabilities, I grieved. Every injection I gave, I grieved. When her development slowed, and started showing signs of Autism, I grieved.
I didn't realize that I am still grieving. The child I dreamed about when I was carrying her doesn't exist, she never did. And although I would never give her up, and I love her even more fiercely and deeply as I did that non-existent child, I still grieve.
My new friend tells me that it's like grieving for a lost relative, and you never truly stop grieving for your child. It moves to the back of your consciousness, out of your everyday thoughts and feelings, but it's still there. It will sometimes resurface, much like the grief for my grandfather surfaced today. And then you pray some more, and you move on.