The day after Thanksgiving, my husband found me in a heap on his parents’ guest room bed. Eyes red-rimmed and swollen and not yet all cried out.
My beautiful, beach-loving, California-girl, sweet, Johnny Cash and ultimate-Dodger-fan Grandma returned HOME, the day before, on Thanksgiving night.
On one hand, there was no place I’d rather be than surrounded by family, the 3 generations, the newness of the ones who had come in on the breath of angels just a few years before.
Yet my grief made everything feel too loud, too much — I was so raw – I felt like I was walking around without skin.
So, I had retreated to the guest room, laid down on the bed and let my feelings move through me.
You see, I’m convinced there is no way out but through. I have tried to shortcut grief in the past – to go around it – but I now know that there is no tying grief up in a neat package, setting it on a shelf and coming back to open it later at a more convenient time.
I now know: “When it comes let it come, when it goes, let it go….”
Because, if you don’t do emotion…emotion does you. And, unacknowledged and unexpressed grief can leak out in strange ways, none of which are healthy for anyone involved.
So, on that day, and days since, I have felt it all…the earthly loss of one of the people who loved me unconditionally, who knew me longest, my father’s mama. My proud and adoring grandmother. The woman for whom words of love and pride rolled effortlessly off her tongue. The woman who never met a baby she didn’t love, who had an abiding faith, who survived the loss of her son before his time and who delighted in the simple beauties and joys of this world. She knew the little things were really the big things.
When it was time for me to call it a night, my eyes puffy and throat lumpy – it felt important not to slip out the back door, but to say goodbye to my husband’s family – my family – one by one, and not to hide my pain. Whom would that serve? So, I did. I said goodbye to each one, individually. And, I was struck by the sweetness that came back to me. My oldest-college-stud nephew patted my arm and offered sweet condolences. My 11-year-old niece hugged me tight and didn’t let go. My sister and brother-in-laws gave me warm, knowing hugs, acknowledging the blessings that lie in my sensitivity. My mother-in-law who offered her assistance and my father-in-law, in his quiet way, embraced me.
When we got home? The new ones? My babes? They wrapped their arms around me and gifted me their favorite paper airplanes. They offered me their most precious currency at this juncture of their lives – something they had built with their own sweet hands. “An orange and yellow one, mama, because it will make you think of the sun in California. Because you love California.”
And, my wise husband, who put me to bed that night, and got up early with the kids and kept them engaged and quiet to let me sleep until my body woke up, which it did, nearly 12 hours later.
Oh, how Glennon Doyle got it right when she called this life “brutiful.” My Grandma’s passing, on Thanksgiving, and the expressions of grief and love that have followed are, indeed, equal parts brutal and beautiful, and somehow fitting, as, for the rest of our lives, we’ll give thanks for hers.