I’m lucky. The first death in my memory of someone close to me was my grandfather 2 years ago, and we weren’t that close. He was an amazing man, but not one I knew well. It pains me to say that, but it’s the truth. I was unprepared for how much his death would affect me. I thought it would barely affect me at all, given I barely knew him.
The next two would happen in quick succession while I was overseas late last year. My beloved grandmother, who helped to raise me and was always generous to a fault, and the Viking’s grandfather, Morfar, who I had met face to face for the first time only 5 days before, and who had been hanging out to meet me – the woman who wed his beloved grandson.
Last week I received a phone call advising me that my aunt had gone into hospital and probably wouldn’t come out. We all knew it was coming, it had been for a while, but she had held on for so long I’d started to believe she’d outlive us all.
I was wrong.
On the Wednesday the prognosis was bleak, 3-7 days left. So Thursday morning my mother & I drove up the coast to say goodbye to her. Up & back in one day, 4 hours each way. I slept all the way home.
I thought when I saw her I would have something profound to say. Something to show her how much she meant to me. Something meaningful, and maybe a little bit poetic. Some of the family members left the room for us to say goodbye when it was time for us to go. My mother leant over my aunt and told her about her mother’s first impression of this woman, who woman who had stolen her twin’s heart. And how much their friendship had meant to my mother. They were sisters, much more so than marriage. My uncle leant over her and said a few words. As always his words were few, but full of expression and meaning.
Then it was my turn. I went to say something, but all I got out was “I” before I dissolved into tears. So I just hugged her. She gripped me from the bed, a bear hug I have always associated with that side of my family. A hug her daughter would always refer to as a proper hug. “Give me a hug” she’d say, and you’d give her one, then she’d say, “No, a proper hug” and squeeze you until you thought you wouldn’t be able to breathe anymore. She may have been weak, she may have been dying, but she still gripped me in a proper hug. She just held me as I cried.
I’ve never felt grief like this. They say everybody grieves differently. Well it seems my body can’t decide how to grieve. One minute I want to watch dinosaur documentaries, the next I just want to sleep or cry. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to be alone. I want to keep my normal routine, change nothing, push through, but at the same time it feels wrong for the world to continue as it did before.
Why are all these people just going on with their lives? Don’t they know she’s gone?
“The stars are not wanted now, pack up every one. Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun. Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood, for nothing now can ever come to any good.”