A Special Grief
By Ramona Flightner/@ramonaflightner
I watched the elderly man in the brown, calf-length raincoat walk toward me and my throat constricted as I battled tears. His shoulders were slightly stooped and he wore glasses. In no other way did he resemble my grandfather, and yet, my yearning to see my grandfather again washed over me. I wanted to hear his voice, see his smile, watch his eyes sparkle with joy as he listened to tales about my life, and hear him ask me one more time, “When are you coming down again to visit me?” As I approach the one-year anniversary of my grandfather’s death, the full extent of my loss is ever apparent.
I, more than anyone, know that I should rejoice in his life rather than be saddened by his death. He lived to be almost 96 years old and had a wonderful life. He was blessed with loving friends and family. He never lived in a nursing home, but received exceptional care from my aunt at his own home. He never suffered from dementia and would surprise us with funny stories and memories in later years. Finally, I had a chance to say good-bye and be with him at his death. All wonderful, beautiful things.
And yet, as the one-year mark approaches, I find myself mourning anew. Not with the same depth as before, but with a better understanding of the finality of my personal loss. There are few people on this earth who love unconditionally. My grandfather was one of those people for me. The realization that such love and understanding is lost forever, is, at times, difficult to accept.
I never know when grief is going to sneak up and wallop me. It is often at the most unexpected moments. Like when I see an elderly man who reminds me of my grandpa. Or when I think of a story and reach for the phone to call my grandpa, only to realize he’s no longer there to appreciate it. Grief is like the ocean’s tides. There can be lulls in the pain, and then a roaring wave washes over me, taking me by surprise as it knocks me to my knees. The finality of death takes my breath away and leaves me gasping for succor.
And yet, in those moments when I am enveloped in sadness and filled with a yearning to see him and all those whom I have lost once again, I remember the wonderful times we had together. I remember the stories that knitted our lives together and that give me the strength to rise and continue my personal journey. I remember the lessons he taught me about compassion, kindness, strength, loyalty and honor. When I become impatient, I begin a silent mantra to myself of “slow and steady,” one of my grandfather’s favorite phrases. It calms me and helps me feel connected to him while at the same time helping me to realize that anything worthwhile takes time.
I know that I will always miss him and everyone I have loved and lost. I take solace in the memories and the retelling of the stories they told me as it helps me continue to feel a fragile connection across the generations.