After writing my last post I went back to the hospital. There was just nowhere else for me to be. So I sat with Grandmom, my mom, her brother Mart, his wife Marian and their cousin Dottie. We stroked Grandmom’s hair, we held her hands, kissed her face. We talked to her, we reminisced, we ate chicken salad and chocolate cake. At 7:00, I put Jeopardy on the TV, for Grandmom, even though none of us was watching it. Around 8:30, my mom and I left. Grandmom’s vitals hadn’t changed much in the hours we had been there. We knew the end was near, but no one knew when it would happen. She died within minutes of us leaving.
A song just came on my ipod with the lyrics, “When your mind’s made up, there’s no point trying to change it.” I’m smiling because this describes Grandmom perfectly, even in dying. She decided she was ready to die, and she did. Amazing, the will she had. This, too, I’ve inherited from her.
I had some happy events over the weekend, beautiful distractions from grief. I had a house full of some of my favorite people on Saturday, who showed up with food and flowers and love and children and even a tiny Corgi puppy to play with Nalu. Then yesterday, we had a wedding shower for my brother’s fiancée, Karen. Helping to plan for that, prepare, shop, set up, host, participate, and clean up were all good things to do this week. I wore Grandmom’s pearls, the ones she told me she wanted me to have during our last talk, and I touched them a lot. When the bride opened a gift from Grandmom, I wanted to scream and cry, but I didn’t. I sneaked a look at the card, just to see if it was her handwriting—it was—but I swallowed my grief. Instead I focused on making the bride feel special, loved, and welcomed to our family, because that’s what Grandmom would want.
Tomorrow is the funeral. I’m looking forward to the gathering of family and friends, the shared memories of this amazing woman. My in-laws are coming tonight, and I am grateful for that, another happy distraction. Every day, hundreds of times, I’m grateful for Nalu, my joyful little puppy. I’m grateful for my large and supportive family, and especially for my cousin Julie, who has always been more like a sister. I’m grateful for my Grandmom Owsik, who is not only still living and healthy, but an almost daily part of my life, living as she does just down the street from me. I’m grateful for upcoming weddings and births, for friends and their babies, for the many emails, messages, prayers and phone calls.
I understand now the usefulness of outward symbols of mourning, like wearing black for a year. I wish I had a sign that told people, “I’m a little fragile right now, not quite myself.” Since I don’t, I improvised, spending four hours and a king’s ransom at the beauty salon on Friday to make myself blonde. It was something kind to do for myself, and also a way to manifest physically how different I feel inwardly. And like acting your way into better thinking, I find that I can look my way into better feeling. I may not feel light-hearted and summery, but looking it brings me closer.
*Dark humor is part of the Irish heritage handed down to me from Grandmom.