My husband's grandmother passed away this weekend. It's not my story to tell, so I won't tell it here, but we walked around sad and heavy-feeling all weekend and everything around us felt very fragile and impermanent, the way it does when a death touches you so closely.
Yet life itself is fragile and impermanent--there's no getting around it. We learn this early on, and bury this knoweldge deep inside, where we don't have to look at it everyday. A loss reminds us of this fact, even when we're feeling our most confident, and healthy, and powerful.
I'm reposting a piece I wrote last December, after Scott's Nana visited us for a family holiday gathering.
This past weekend we hosted the annual family Christmas gathering for Scott's side of the family, and we were lucky enough to have Scott's grandmother come from Texas to share in the festivities. She and Scott's mom arrived late on Friday night, long after the kids had gone to bed. The next morning, I was in the kitchen brewing coffee and chatting with Scott's Nana when L. came downstairs, still in his pajamas, excited to see her. He went straight to where she was seated at the kitchen table and gave her the sweetest, most sincere hug in the world--a body melting hug, not the usual stiff, face-turned-away hug he customarily responds with when asked for one.
In fact, I may be biased, but I don't think, that whole weekend long, anyone gave her a more sincere, sweeter, warmer hug than he had given her that morning. And I was so grateful I'd been there to witness it., even if no one else had.
Some people act surprised when I tell them that L. is not a kid who shows his emotions readily. They act surprised to hear this because his range of emotions is so extreme and often very visible. He can be extremely angry and enraged, or extremely hyped up and out of control, but he has always had a hard time with the in-between emotions, and with that calm, everything-is-okay state of mind that comes naturally to the rest of us. People--even family members--get impatient with him when he's hyped up or angry and they turn themselves away from him and I ache inside for him at these moments, because I know he can't help it. If you spend a lot of time with L., and watch very carefully there are, now and again, little windows that open up and you can catch a radiant glimpse of that deeply sensitive soul inside of him--because he is deeply sensitive, in ways most people can't even fathom.
When I'm there to glimpse moments like the one that happened in the kitchen this past weekend, I always startle a little inside, and sayoh! to myself, because sometimes even I forget just how complex a person L. is emotionally, and how much he wrestles with these emotions, and thinks about people, and misses them, too. When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, not even a year after we had been lucky to see her in Greece that summer, I hesitated to say anything to him until days after it happened--mainly because I was too upset to think about the best way to bring it up. He knew she had been ill for months and months, but never asked about her, or talked about her, or wanted to hear the updates on her health, or my worries. But a little over a week after she died I was folding laundry in our bedroom and L. came in and sat, bouncing on the bed for a few moments. Then he stopped.
"Mama?" He said.
Then he bounced some more and stopped.
"I was thinking about Greece today."
And my eyes welled up with tears, of course, because I realized that telling me that he was thinking about Greece was his way of telling me he had understood what had happened, his way of connecting with me about this loss. I told him that Yiayia had died and he covered his face with his hand, as if to blot out the news. When I hugged him his body melted into mine for a minute or more, and we shared our sorrow together, and it was one of those oh! moments I'll never forget.
I came full circle thinking about that memory this past weekend. I felt grateful that the kids were able to spend time with their great-grandmother again, but having Scott's Nana here made me remember my own grandmother, and the loss of her in my life and in my children's lives. It was also a reminder, during these crazy-busy, chaotic, shopping- and baking-filled days, how quickly life can change, and how important it is to cherish those oh! moments in our lives, those times we spend with loved ones who live far away, and with our children who continue to surprise and enchant us in the most unexpected ways.