â€œYou will lose someone you canâ€™t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesnâ€™t seal back up. And you come through. Itâ€™s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly â€“ that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.â€
Grandma used to say she feared to be alone.Â Not alone as in nobody comes to visit, but alone as in those she loved passing away as she endured.Â Her fears, to a degree, came true.Â Grandma lived to be just shy of 102 years old. She grieved through the passing of her parentâ€™s, many siblings and relatives, her husband, a son, and countless friends. Living a long life came with a price she came to abhor paying. Each death brought additional jagged edges and bleeding memories.
I spent a lot of time with Grandma.Â My birth came just three months before my grandfather died from brain cancer. Whether by default or design, Mom and Dad often left me in Grandmaâ€™s care as they built our farm out of dreams and rock-strewn land. Perhaps they figured that caring for a newborn would keep her distracted.Â As Grandma watched over me, my infant cries mingled with her grief-fueled tears.Â I was new to life.Â She was angry at death.Â Together we sought to survive and grow into our realities.
Now that I am in midlife I find myself grappling with loss, too.Â My grandparents and parents are gone.Â Many aunts and uncles have left this earth as well.Â Recently a new friend, but one who quickly endeared himself, died of a massive heart attack.Â The shock rippled deep. In trying to make sense of it, I fell solidly into my fears.Â Life is so precious and unknown. Am I living with purpose?Â How would I keep going if my husband died?Â Could I survive the passing of one of my children?
Although I was raised to believe death is just a bridge to heaven if a God-guided life is chosen, grief was not addressed in an understandable way.Â By observation, I came to realize grieving varies from individual to individual and runs the gamut from anger to peace.Â For example, my father often frowned at those who crumbled when a loved one died.Â â€œWhere is their faith?â€ he would say.Â And yet when he heard my mom had diedâ€”a woman long divorced from his lifeâ€”he was inconsolable.Â My stoic Norwegian father placed his face in his hands and sobbed unapologetically.Â I, in turn, scrambled for footing and found none.
As I grow older, I think about my loved ones who have preceded me in death.Â They continue to influence so much of who I am, what I do, and what I believe.Â Last week my husband said just because someone dies doesnâ€™t mean he is gone; he is just in a different phase of being.Â We were walking on the beach at the time, holding hands as waves licked at our bare feet.Â The day was quickly waning. Seagrass glowed as the sun sank into tangerine puddles. Was the day dying or simply preparing the sky for countless stars?Â I held my husbandâ€™s hand a little tighter.Â Nowâ€”this momentâ€”was all we had, and I intended to hang on.