Unreal absence

It's funny. When my father's father was dying, I wanted to tell my facebook friends about it, but I felt like I couldn't. Because I knew that no matter how carefully and clearly I explained it to the contrary, people were going to jump to the conclusion that the grandfather in question was the grandfather I've been living with for the last five years, and I didn't have the emotional energy to make the correction over and over again.  (And sure enough, when I finally did make the announcement, even though I explicitly prefaced it with a disclaimer that I was not talking about Ben, a number of people demonstrated lack of reading comprehension.)

Now my mother's father -- the one I have been living with for the last five years -- has also died, and I don't really feel like talking about it.

But I so appreciate the compassion and kind words of my friends, and I want to honor the concern of those who wonder how I'm doing. So. A couple observations:

(1)

Quite a number of people have expressed concern that it must be hard for me to be alone in the big empty house that I used to share with GrandDad. But I've actually been surprised over how not-strange it feels. When I moved here, one of the things that was almost unsettling was the very palpable absence of my grandmother. So when my grandfather left, I fully expected that profound sense of absence to double, that the whole property would be haunted by the privation of both of the people who had given it life for more than half a century. But it doesn't feel that way at all. Even when I occupy my grandfather's room (I'm sitting on his bed as I type these words), the place is not consumed with his absence.

And then I realized that what made my grandmother's absence so profound was the undying heartache of how much he missed her. The emptiness that's filled the house for years has been the emptiness of separation. Now that my grandparents are no longer separated, that emptiness no longer fills every corner of the house. It's peaceful here, not depressing or eerie.

It is, admittedly, sometimes a little bit lonely. I am glad in those moments especially that I have a cat.

(2)

I take immense comfort in the way the details came together in the final week of my grandfather's life. I feel like God knew exactly who needed to be here, and who didn't, and arranged it just so. The people we all would have expected to be here for the end -- the daughter who lives in the next city and myself -- were both on vacation. Because of that, two other daughters and the necessary professional caregivers were here. I do not regret that I was not here at the very end, but I am very glad that my mother and her sister were.

I expected to be devestated when this happened, and am surprised that I am not. I miss him, to be sure. But having witnessed how he struggled with the physical limitations that plagued him in his final months, it feels like it would be selfish to wish him back. I'm sorry that I didn't get the chance to sit with him and go through his watch collection and have him tell me the stories of where each one came from, as we were planning to do when I came back from my vacation. But I'm not sorry that he is free from the "thorns in the flesh" that were such a burden to him of late. And I am grateful that the painful part of the dying process was not drawn out, and that he got the death he wanted: at home, not hooked up to machines, with his children at his side.

I am somewhat anxious about what comes next for me, although there are some developments just in the last 24 hours (that I'm not going to tell you about just yet -- sorry!) that make it feel like that, too, is coming together in possibly wonderful ways. I am hopeful, if unsettled by the uncertainty. And I am deeply grateful for the prayers of caring friends.

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