When I was 7, my great-grandmother died. My mother's grandma. I wanted to go to her funeral, but was told I was too young. I was so angry with my parents. I wanted to go say goodbye to the softest, huggiest, smiliest great-grandma that I had. the *only* great-grandma that I had. But nope, it was determined that I wouldn't be able to handle a casket and a dead body. When my mom came home, she hugged me said she wished she'd taken me. That made me even more angry.
When I was 13, my grandma died. My dad's mom. She was in the hospital for a week or so, an hour away from where I lived. I wanted to go see her, to hold her hand. I was told, again, that I would not be allowed in her hospital room because it would traumatize me. Again, I was angry. The grandma who played "My Koala" with my brother and I, the grandma who cooked fresh-caught fish, who loved camping and fishing, was gone. At least I was allowed to attend the funeral that time...
When I was 16, my dad's only sister, my Aunt Rita, passed away. Hers was a closed casket funeral due to time of death vs time found. Aunt Rita had lived with us when I was little. She loved to play dress-up with me, do my make-up and curl my hair. She had a raspy voice from smoking, and I loved to hear her speak. I still have the last birthday present she sent me. A pound puppy.
When I was 20, and 8 months pregnant with my first child, my grandfather passed away. My dad's dad. Grandpa was an ornery old guy, fighting lung cancer, liver issues, and emphyzema. I always made it a point to go visit him whenever I was in Pocatello. If my school took a trip and we ended up at the mall, I'd leave, cross the main roads, and go knock on his door to say hi. I visited a lot less when I moved to Utah, but I always wanted him to know that he was important to me. He was often grouchy, but that was ok. I didn't mind; in fact I think I loved him all the more for it, because he didn't feel a need to protect me from the truth of his life. I never doubted that he loved me.
Now that I'm 42, my dad's youngest brother, my Uncle Randy, has passed away. Yesterday. When I moved to Utah, I felt like I'd lost nearly all of my Idaho family. Not long after my grandfather's funeral, my dad and Randy had a falling out, so I lost touch with him completely. About six months ago, I reconnected with him over Facebook.
Uncle Randy was always willing to play with us when I was little. He always had a smile, and was always so gentle and sweet. He came to my wedding and took 90% of the pictures that day. He blew some up and put some in photo albums and mailed them all to me. He was so very giving.
I don't know what the difference is between this loss and the losses I experienced 20+ years ago. I am so sad that he's gone. I recognize that I am in a different place emotionally than I was back then. I understood that death happened, I was both sad and angry over the first two - so much so, that even now I feel reverberations of that anger. But I didn't feel the impact of loss, just the shock that they were gone. Grandpa O was finally out of pain. Grandma O had tried to pass in her sleep, but they brought her back and put her on life support until the family pulled the plug. So her death felt right and timely. Not painless, don't get me wrong, but it was still more peaceful than it could have been.
Rita's death was much more of a shocker. She'd just graduated with her bachelors in Culinary Arts, had a job as a chef, and then bam, gone. The worst part of that whole thing was the awful awful way the things she left behind were handled by -- well, I probably shouldn't name names here. But it was so bad I was embarrassed to be there, having to help with what felt like a smash-and-grab. I think Rita would have been absolutely pissed at how things were handled. I will say this, though. My uncle Rudy was so sad, so filled with grief, and yet so solid at that time.
So here I sit, contemplating the grief and sadness I'm feeling at the news of my uncle's passing. I don't feel like there's a hole in my heart. I feel regret that I didn't make it up to visit him, to introduce him to my children. To give him a hug. I think he needed lots and lots of hugs and I regret not being able to visit him and share hugs with him.
Part of me is jealous, I will admit that. Why did it get to be his time and not mine? Why didn't he come and get me and take me with him?
Part of me simply misses him. I miss knowing that he's there, reading my goofy meaningless FB posts and sometimes commenting. I miss the idea that I can go visit him the next time I drive up to Idaho. Instead, the next time I drive up it will be for his funeral and that sucks.
Death sucks. It just does. I know it happens to everyone. Every single one of us will die at some point. And I believe in a life after death, I believe we'll see each other again. That doesn't make death any freaking easier to take.
This time there's anger as well. I'm angry that it happened so soon after we'd reconnected. I'm angry that due to his family circumstances he didn't have any next of kin on file. No next of kin on file. NONE. That is horrifically sad, because he felt neither of his brothers would care if he lived or died. Well **I** care, dammit.
There's been a clumsy mess of finding relatives to take care of the funeral and all the other fun arrangements. Again, yay for facebook and yay for my sister who pays attention to his page. I'm angry at the falling out of dad and his brothers, because now there are only the two brothers left and neither knows how to contact the other. I'm angry that my dad's side of family - including me - doesn't stay in touch with anyone.
On Thursday I told a gal from work that I would pick up her shift tomorrow because she's attending a funeral. How ironic. I don't have a clue how to stand there tomorrow morning and smile at people. How to help them with feedback on clothes, where to find things in the store, and just generally be cheerful. How does one fake it that much? I hurt. My heart hurts. So much sadness, so much wrongness.
In fact, here, give a listen to Peter Gabriel's "I Grieve" because it's appropriate.
There aren't really any right words to say. I know, because I've looked for them when trying to comfort others who have experienced loss. It's okay to just say anything.
Well, except to ask me if I'm ok. Don't do that. My husband keeps asking me that, and that is probably the dumbest question on the planet. Because NO. No, I am not okay. My uncle just died and I hurt inside. I am going to cry and be sad, because it hurts.
I may be on drugs because I'm depressed and bi-polar, but I am still allowed to be sad. So don't freaking ask me if I'm ok. The answer is no. I'm sure I will be eventually, but not today. Or tomorrow.