Real Absence

The thing that took the most getting used to, when I moved into my grandparents' house a couple years ago, was how very palpable was the absence of my late grandmother.

I had been here a couple of days after her funeral nine years before; I had sat with my relatives around the kitchen table while we hashed out what would go on her grave marker. I had visited several times in the intervening years, including one trip the express purpose of which was to clean out her sewing room (now my bedroom).

But somehow she didn't seem so irrevocably, completely gone in all of those times I had spent in her house. Perhaps the memory of how active and outgoing she was played a part -- it always seemed like she might just be out visiting friends. Perhaps the presence of my own mother was a buffer. Of course I never forgot that she had died, but that knowledge didn't confront me in a powerful emotional way just by being in her home. I was more likely to get choked up singing "For All The Saints" in a church on the other side of the country than sitting in my grandmother's house.

But then I moved in, and as I got used to life with my grandfather, I discovered: he still misses her, every single day.

Of course. I loved her, but I didn't live with her every day, so her sudden absence from my life was a different thing entirely than it was for the man who had loved and shared his life with her for half a century.

Yesterday was my grandparents' 63rd anniversary. This morning GrandDad heard a radio interview in which the subject spoke of the death of his wife as the worst thing that had ever happened to him. GrandDad is not an especially expressive person, but in our mealtime grace he confessed to God that he had had a "horrible day" with those reminders of his loss. He then thanked God for the years he had shared with his beloved, and expressed his faith that God knows what he's doing, even when it doesn't make sense to us.

I wish I knew the words to make it better, but I suspect they don't exist. There is grace, though, I trust, in being a witness to the deep love that lies beneath such heartache.


Mary Beth said...

Blessings on your presence there.

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