Sepia Novembers

As I was sat here on Saturday, writing, right where I am this morning, again doing just that, my grandfather died. Not that I knew that then. It was not unexpected: it followed a week in hospital in multiple organ failure, systemic infection, a long life. Ninety two years.

My mother ‘phoned that evening. She’d been crying. Her father. My brother ‘phoned. My father emailed. People around me are upset. I am concious that I am not. I feel – nothing. My grandfather had a long life. Early last week, I emailed his church prayer chain.  A couple had been travelling out of town to visit him, sit with him, every day since he was admitted to hospital. Others had been looking in too. He had prayed with them, the hospital chaplain reading Psalm 23 with him, as he slipped in and out of consciousness. They said he had told them he was ready to die – was looking foward to seeing all those he had lost in heaven. I have heard him say this before.  Such was his faith. Such was his peace with the ending of life, that I find it hard to be sad that he has died.

I am not upset at all. Neither was I upset when my grandmother died  six years ago. My father’s parents died long before I was born. Again, I will probably be the only one not crying at the funeral. Given all the things that do lead me to tears in church, this not crying is  unacceptable. Wrong. I should be upset that someone who prayed for me every day of my life is no longer alive. I chose not to visit last week. Maybe I should have done. Maybe that is why everyone is upset. Because they saw him dying while my memories are of carpentary workshops, war stories, days on the beach, tea with teapots and cups and saucers. Bird tables and badgers in the garden.

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Or, maybe it is because of the latent anger I have, but never dared express, towards a grandfather who even when she was in her sixties still told her daughter repeatedly that she  was not “good enough” and should have been a doctor, not a nurse. Told her that she was wrong not to go to church. Wrong not to go out to work. Wrong to live with a man who is not her husband. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Maybe the kind of death that my grandfather had calms me. A new journey of meeting loved ones again, of no more pain or problems or tears. That knowing it is only naked fear that suicide might not lead to that kind of death stops me. That I know that he rests in Perfect Peace, as he wanted his whole life through.

I am going around in circles. I have happy memories of my grandfather. I know that he was loved by his family, and by his church. I know that he had a long life, and was content for it to end. I don’t know why I don’t feel anything, when other things make me feel so easily. I am not sure how to act my way through this.

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One Response to Sepia Novembers

  1. My mother died 5 years ago this month – 10th April. I remember finding people’s language around her death irritating! ‘So sorry for your loss.’ ‘Thinking of you at this sad time.’

    I remember feeling none of those things. I hadn’t ‘lost’ anyone, and her death certainly wasn’t sad – at least not to me. She had turned 90 the previous September, and whilst mentally robust and outwardly cheerful, and certainly not wasting away, she was physically unable to do much for herself, was heavily reliant on carers, and not able to go out unless someone took her. She had frequent bouts of breathlessness, which no one could diagnose. And she was ready to die.

    That doesn’t mean I didn’t miss her. I still miss her. I miss being able to tell her about things. I still occasionally think, ‘Oh, I’ll tell Mum that’. But she died, and she was ready to die. She had a long life – not always happy – in fact often tinged with sadness and pain (rheumatoid and osteo arthritis) but she wasn’t a sad person. She knew how to laugh and how to smile, and her laughter and smiles were genuine.

    Her funeral was beautiful: as much a celebration as a saying goodbye.

    The day after she died, I was listening to Radio 4 in the car whilst driving over to sort out arrangements, etc., and the book of the week was ‘The Warmth of the Heart Prevents the Body from Rusting’ by Marie de Henezell. (Recommended reading!) As Iistended, my jaw dropped. I realised that my Mum, bless her, had cracked it. She had grown old and died with a warm and full heart.

    What more can we ask for? And why should we be sad at such a death?



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