When I was younger, my grandparents and I (seemingly) went to funerals all of the time. I’m not sure if it seemed that way because they were older and lost a lot of friends and family members or because I was young and had no real concept of time and frequency. At some point, I became numb to the events. I wore my traditional little black dress, sat quietly watching others cry for their loved ones and looked forward to the meal to follow.
As I got older and began losing people who were close to me, the events began to take on a different emotion. Walking around the church waiting your turn to take the last glance of a person who once held so much life makes it almost impossible to hold back the tears. However, once the casket closes and you realize that you will never see that person again, that the last memory has been created, something stirs inside your soul and pushes those tears forward.
It is said that we should not cry when someone passes away because they are closer to heaven (theoretically) rather we should cry when a child is born because they are entering a world of suffering. However, it is almost impossible to view life like that. We want to celebrate life as it passes but it is only natural to become upset because selfishly we want them to stay with us forever.
I have over 30 aunts and uncles (long story). I was also blessed with three sets of the most amazing grandparents that I could ever imagine giving me direction in life and a great-grandmother who was also instrumental in creating the person I am today. Needless to say, with a family of this size, there are a lot of births (I have no idea how many cousins I have) but there is also a lot of mourning.
Death knocking at my family’s door almost became a regular occurence. Just as when I was child, I would wear my traditional black skirt suit, shed the appropriate tears as I reflected on the memories that would never again be created, enjoy the food and fellowship following the service and venture back into my world, almost as if nothing had happened.
However, one funeral changed all of that. When my maternal grandmother passed away, I swear I think a part of me died with her. I would always hear people say that and thought I knew what it meant but I didn’t. Not until I felt this part of me melting away as I gazed at her lifeless body and heard the thud of the lid closing on her life. At that moment, the flood of memories rushed through my brain and I didn’t think the tears would ever stop and couldn’t imagine living this life without her. I survived but I wasn’t the same.
A few years later, my paternal grandfather got really sick. After the devastation of losing my grandmother, I was so scared of having that feeling again that I put up a wall to shield me from the tidal wave of emotion that I saw on the horizon. I didn’t go see him, I didn’t say any final good-byes, I didn’t play the dutiful part at the funeral or after. Losing someone who knew you before you knew yourself is so much more ***** (don’t know what that word is) than anything you can emotionally prepare for. Although I knew he wasn’t well and it seems that the moment had been prepared for, it was the rush of final memories that held me captive. I didn’t want to create those types of memories because I wanted to remember him as the strong, vibrant man who made everyone around him feel like family and never turned down the opportunity to help anyone.
Well, here I stand once again… my great-grandmother passed away and I think my family assumes I don’t care. I didn’t visit her in the nursing home, I didn’t sit by her bed and say any good-byes. Those were not the types of memories that I wanted to store. I remember her as this warm, loving woman whose house my aunt and I would walk to during warm summer months after a quick stop at the local five and dime store. She was a home shopping network fanatic and kept the local delivery man busy. She was so many things to me that I could not bear to see her lying in a hospital bed nor can I bear to experience that final casket closing moment.
Some people need closure in their lives, I don’t. I often feel that this may be more of a character flaw than strength but I am content to walk away from a situation without a good-bye or final farewell. I don’t need to see it to believe it. Knowing is quite enough. I know that God has blessed me with the strength to overcome this, as I have so many other loses. Maybe I was wrong, just a few sentences ago. Maybe I do need closure. Maybe this is final farewell to the grandfather whose funeral I could not bear to sit through and to my great-grandmother who I want to remember as she was and not as she is.
True love is not conditional. My love for either of them is not shown through my ability to sit in a church and listen to the sentiments of others nor is it shown through endless conversation about what they meant to me. My love for them is in the memories that we created and that are now dancing in head.
Just because you don’t see me cry… You should not think that the tears don’t flow…