In short, my grandma is ill, acting incoherent and although it could be years from now or tomorrow, the fact that she is dying is heavy on all of our hearts and coming to terms with that is rougher than I ever thought.
I'm not that familiar with death. My first funeral was at the age of 21? maybe 23?, my husband's (at the time) grandfather whom I'd only met a handful of times in the few years I'd known him, but he made a good impression on me with his caring heart, gentle nature, and unconditional love for my daughter, who was not his "real" family but to him, she was. That makes him more "family" than some blood related members though doesn't it? And he was very old, so it wasn't shocking or surprising. It was easier to put a God-loving man to rest, that had lived a long life. Still, I cried and learned that the sadness is not only the loss, but an aching at watching others lose something so precious. I cried for his baby sister and cried for my daughter who was too young to understand that she just lost the most precious gift of unconditional love, who couldn't understand that it doesn't come easy and is a rare and awesome thing.
Then my second funeral. A cousin who died in a work related accident, leaving behind an infant son and going before anyone expected it. It was a different kind of funeral. The loss was more shocking because he was so young and I had a more personal relationship, spanning over our entire childhood to let go of this time. I cried again for his tiny son who would never know his father, and for my cousin's parents who had to lay their own child in the ground. But this time I cried for me too. For the loss of a friend, of memories only he and I shared, gone forever. Still now, over 15(?) years later, I find myself thinking of him like he is just a phone call away and not "gone". I still laugh over memories and ache over his loss, but we had distanced ourselves over the years. I had gone off and started my own family as he did the same and we just lost touch, giving the occassional hug and small chit chat at family gatherings. I didn't know the man that died. I knew the child he was before that. I don't know why that makes a difference to me and how I reacted, but it does. In a way, I had lost my childhood friend long before he died. I lost him as we grew apart.
And there was one other funeral. A friend of my husbands who died in a motorcycle accident. I didn't know him at all but went to support my husband. He left behind two young children and it was gut wrenching to hear them asking questions, trying to process what happened. And the father, unable to say anything but a quiet inaudible "thank you for coming" before we left. I found myself slipping into a "what if that were my husband, my father, my children?" and it was too painful to imagine and I shut it all out. I didn't "know" him. I don't have to feel like this. And so I didn't.
And here I am, 34 with just a few tiny experiences with death. I went to visit my grandmother yesterday and it's the first time I've experienced someone dying, which is a whole different onion than dealing with the actual death of a person. And so many many layers.
My Grandmother, not acting herself at all, mainly a glimmer of who she was underneath a sludge of incoherent ranting. Her urgency in trying to tell you things before she goes, that seems so very important to her, forcing you to try and make sense of irrational things, and question the meaning behind nonsense. Listening to it for hours, just for a 5 minute glimpse of her old self to satisfy the selfish need of wanting her with you a little longer.
Then my Grandfather. The turmoil of watching her go, or not go. Not saying so, but wanting the unknowing to stop and for God to take her now or heal her so that he can be spared the unbearable pain of watching her turn into something she isn't. Wanting her back to her old self, or wanting her to go so he can remember who she was without the words of someone else coming from her face and lips tainting the image of who she really is. He said "All she wanted was a short and painless death". A gift he can not give her. An underlying anger towards God for denying her request. "It's Hell, it's Hell on earth, but so hard to say goodbye to 53 years." That 2 directional pull of "take her, I can not bare it" and "Fix her, I can not bare her to go" literally ripping his heart in two. This is not what I thought. I was ready to comfort a man who has lost, but not a man like this. There are no words, there is no fix, and I too am trying not to question God's plan.
My father. "My knight" she calls him. "He is here to help his mama with his strong back". He's emotionally drained, little to no sleep, trying his hardest to be a Knight at his weakest moments. Seeing him smile but his eyes crying. Seeing him lift and coo at her with pain on his brow. Trying to show me how strong he is when I've never seen him more child like.
So many other layers too. Death is nothing compared to dying. A funeral is a time to remember the life of a person that died, but while they're dying, it's all about the family and being there for each other. I am prepared for a funeral, but I wasn't prepared for this.