We lost our grandma October 2. She had been sick for some time, her health coming and going for years. But she was a fighter. Always recovering when no one thought she would, miraculously better and up and about, or at least hungry for something truly astounding, like a hot dog, after some serious illness.
48 hours after her death, something happened that had never happened in her life, virtually her entire family (all except a few hung up by airlines or caring for little ones) came together to remember her. Cousins that I have seen only once or twice in my life came together for a long weekend. My dad, niece and nephew drove from Florida, which took them longer than it did for me to fly from England. We all came together to remember a life that was worth remembering.
Death is never easy, even if it isn’t unexpected. It’s finality is deafening, the emptiness too heavy to bear. We don’t have a large family. For my grandparent’s 4 children there are only 8 grandchildren. Grandpa is a patriarch if ever there was one. Anytime you are with him he will inevitably tell you stories about his “unassuming” life, shuttling troops over the Channel in World World II, hunting fugitives in the bayou, marrying his high school sweetheart or building a life changing river in Libya. The stories are endless, and humbling to see from what a heritage we have come. Yet in it all, his main message is one of family: stay close to your family, love them and don’t give up on them even when they want to be given up on, make them a priority over all else. And what a family worth fighting for. Grandma always took care of us, having special treats around the house when we were little; from the candy dish in the basement (why must those things always be glass and therefore LOUD?), to ice cream treats way too fancy for our fridge, but put there just for us to find. Meals made to feed thousands and those individual cereal boxes waiting each morning.
Life is short, memories are fleeting, but being far away reminds me more acutely with each passing day that importance of family. It can’t be replaced, no matter how sweet the friends. It is the only answer for holiday blues and the slumps of life. It makes the good days better and the bad days easier to get through. Death separates us, but we cling to the hope that one day even death’s sting will be removed, for the grave will no longer triumph over us all.