Last wednesday I received a call early in the afternoon. When that phone rang, my heart sank. Something in me knew that my mother would tell me that her mother, my grandmother, had left our physical world. Almost instantly I began to make my plans to head home to Colorado to be with my mother, who I know more than anyone and know that this heartache is one she could not bear alone. I thought of the fact that one day I too will lose my own mother and I pray that I have children to be there for me in a desperate time of darkness. I like to think that I am a strong person, one who can be there for others offering kind and at times hard truths that can help someone see the silver lining in a time that seems impossible. But I need that support to right? All to often we see "those people" who seem so secure, so positive and strong, yet even they need a shoulder to cry on because we are all human and sometimes those people (who often times have very open hearts) feel those emotions even more strongly because they allow themselves to be open to vulnerability.
But I was not alone. She (my grandmother) was with me. At her funeral, I told my mother, on a stunningly beautiful fall day, that I believe that grandma just wanted to hang on to see the fall colors one last time and said "no way, not one more cold colorado winter...Im off to the beach." The beach was one of her favorite places in the world. When I came to see her this last August, I brought her jar full of sand and shells from the beach. I told her "since you can't come to the beach, I brought it to you." And I believe that when she left her body, she came straight to me.
I had less than 24 hours to plan a return trip home, cover my work shifts, and prepare my self with how to deal with this situation, not only from my own perspective but for my mother and my little brother. Without a hitch, a hiccup or any ridiculous obstacle, I found my self on a plane (even though I was standby) on time and on my way to my home state to be apart of this process of letting go. If I had not been able to go, it would not have been the same. I had so much support getting there from my California family, my husband and my wonderful friends who woke me up with breakfast before a ride to the airport and who sent me words of encouragement the entire weekend. I kept telling my husband, "She's with me, watching over me and making sure that I get there to be with my mom".
Spending time with my mother has been amazing. Now, having said that it was also difficult. I would never expect someone who lost their own mother to be very logical or organized or together, so lets just say there were moments that were hard for both of us. But we spent more time laughing than crying and that was exactly what grandma would have wanted. We stayed up all night the first night and looked at old pictures. So many wonderful memories, so many things to recall and smile. It was time of bonding that I wouldn't trade for anything. I hope more than anything that this trip tightened our bond and that my being there will help her heal a little easier and find a way out of the darkness to find new life. I hope she knows that her mothers spirit lives within her, through her and that she is not without her. Grandma will live on through her, as she becomes a grandmother to my children one day and I know that they will have a relationship as amazing as my grandmother and I had.
Having my family close to me during this time has meant more than anything. Simply loving me, is all I could ever ask for. Love me, be here for me. And they were. By some great design, my dads family was getting together for birthday. The entire family was there, not the usual "oh so and so couldn't come" EVERYONE was there. What a blessing! I hadn't seem many of them since I moved away a few years ago. After losing one grandparent, it's made me a little hypersensitive to the others. So I am very glad that I got to see them as well. I got to see my cousins, who were as close as sisters to me, all grown up with their babies and the younger ones with stories of going off to college and getting drivers licenses. It was something I needed, to be supported during a sad time. Everyone of them offered condolences to me and my family and especially to my mother. Even though they had not seen her in a long while since my parents had split. My grandfather especially had a special moment with me, sending love to my mother and her father whom he was very close with during our growing up.
We listened to music that soothed us, that made us cry, that made us laugh, and songs that made us dance and sing. Being next to this man, who I only know as my baby brother, was truly incredible. I am in awe at the man he is becoming and how he is slowly becoming this more confident version of his already amazing self. I love him dearly, and could not have made it though the weekend without him. True to a man's nature he tried not to show too much emotion, but when it came it was truly beautiful. Sometimes we are more vulnerable than we care to be, but it can lead us to an amazing place.
The funeral of course, was incredibly sad. It was so hard to do what we had to do during a time of grief. Organizing, dealing with strangers who you just want to smack when they tell you you can't bring outside food into the event center, when the food was acting as a symbolic gesture, trying to be organized and make sure the music is ready, and do you have a pen, and oh I need this, where is the tape! Oh goodness it was tough. But we pulled it off. Our whole family was there, so here I am again finding love from everyone who's ever known me. My father came, to be there for me and my brother and as much as anyone might not know it, to be there as a friend for my mother. It meant the world to me to see my parents and my brother standing beside me. As well as to know that my father wanted to be there so badly to pay his respects to my grandmother, whom he loved, and offer condolences to my grief stricken family. My best friend from childhood, who knew my family well came to be by my side and sat with my dad so that he wouldn't be alone. I couldn't have asked for more. She was there for me the whole weekend helping me smile and enjoy the trip as much as was possible.
They asked me to read words from my last blog about my grandmother. Before the service began, I went outside to be alone. I looked around at the beautiful landscape and thought, what a beautiful place to be. It was sunny, what some called hot but to me was the most perfect weather I could imagine for an october day in Colorado. I closed my eyes and I prayed to my grandmother for strength. I asked her to help me get through my reading without crying too much so that my words would be clear and heard with sincerity. I asked her to be with me while I tried to be a pillar of strength for my family. Just as it was so quiet and calm, a warm wind blew around me and swirled my hair up in the air and it filled me so strongly I almost fell back in awe. It was a moment that would make you believe in God, whatever my own interpretation of that is, a moment that was so real it couldn't be denied. Sometimes things happen that we can't understand, and its best just to roll with it. After speaking, I definitely let go of myself and allowed my self to cry one of the biggest cries that I ever have. With my brother by my side, I grieved deeply, he reached his hand out to mine and I held it strong for a long long while. My cousin to my left, was also without her husband for the weekend, but her two little boys were so good and were there by her side to be there for her too. I couldn't believe how these little guys could sit there, not fully understanding what was happening, and behave so well and quietly hold their momma.
It was a beautiful service, everything worked out. The words of my grandfather were read by a family friend who was leading the service. I don't know if I've ever seen my grandpa sad, it was hard to see. His words were so sweet, the way he spoke of my grandmother reminded me of my own amazing husband. How lucky I am to have a man who loves me like that. My grandparent's will remain the greatest love story I have ever heard in my life. He loved her more than anyone could ever love someone. I believe that, they had one of those really rare loves. They were married on my birthday, and I always feel special for that. My own anniversary that I celebrate with my husband is ten days before in November and I feel a special connection with their love story. I can't imagine the hurt he is feeling, having to let her go when he can't just go along with her.
After the service, after so many hugs, the pain grew a little dimmer. Isn't that the whole point of a memorial service? To come and let it out, to grieve and be together, and then we learn to walk tall again. As we take these steps forward we will begin to heal, some slower than others, but as long as we keep her spirit alive, she will never really die, so we shouldn't be sad forever. It hurts that we cannot hug her but we can still tell her that we love her, we can still reach our arms open wide and ask her spirit to fill our hearts. Just listen to the wind, it might be her. We have to slow down and pay attention, there are so many signs & signals coming our direction.
Sometimes the more you try to force something to work out, the worse it seems. When we surrender and let it be what it is, it can be surprising to see how well it all pans out.
In times of grieving we need to remember to smile, to laugh and play in the leaves. And then we have to get up, wash off the days of sadness and learn to live again no matter how hard it seems. She would want it that way, just like all of those who have left us in the physical world, they just want us to live and make the most of time we have here on earth.
I came home to "be there" for my family, to be the strong one. But I was not alone, she was with me and she sent everyone in my life to be there for me too.
In ever loving Memory of my grandmother,
Janet Arlene England