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.

  • Hi Ramona, what a lovely from the heart post about your grandfather. he sounds like a wonderful man who shared a lot of wisdom with you. People we love are never lost to us we keep them in a special place inside our hearts. When we think of them we renew our love of them and honor them. I am sure he is still around you and will always be.

    • Thanks, Athena. I know that he will always live on in my heart and for that I am grateful. Thanks for writing such lovely words.

  • bill

    Awesome and gut wrenching. It is funny how such a small thing can stir up such big emotions. I lost both parents, and I, too, find that sometimes things just sneak up on you. But then there are the times when something funny happens, and you feel a sense of connection — a strong memory.. and it brings light to the day ! Thanks for sharing. Feeling your feelings is important…. writing about them is a sign of bravery.

    • Bill- thanks for such supportive words. They made me smile and then tear up a bit. I miss our chats and hope to return to the pool this summer.

  • What a beautiful tribute to your grandfather, Ramona. Although he is gone in body, he has left many wonderful gifts behind. They will live on and on.

    • I agree that his legacy to me will live on and on, and for that I am very thankful. Some days though, I just wish for a hug. Thanks Peggy, for your kind words and visiting.

  • Jamie Hare

    Something about your openning line on this post really gripped me, so that I couldn’t read it while distracted and wanted to set aside just a few moments to pay complete attention to your words. Beautifully written, Ramona. A real heartfelt and warmly descript piece.

    • Thanks, Jamie. I am glad it resonated with you. Thanks for all of your support. :-)

  • Laura Lemont

    Beautiful Ramona- thinking of you.

  • What a lovely tribute to your grandfather. He sounds like he was a wonderful person.

    • Thanks, Sheryl. He was a wonderful person and I was blessed to have him in my life.

  • What a moving post – thank you so much, Ramona, for sharing it with us.

An Austin DesignWorks Production