When you don’t get to say goodbye

The Heart | June 9, 2016 | By



Three of my grandparents died before I got the chance to meet them.
The one that remained was good and fair… mostly present in my life, but we never really connected.
So I could never empathize when a friend lost a grandparent and grieved as though they had lost a limb.
I didn’t realize how great a loss it was for another member of that admirable generation to pass away.

Then we got word… “this might be the end.”
And my heart sank to the pit of my stomache.

Joan wasn’t my real grandmother.
I met her in my early 20’s. She needed help cleaning her house. I needed cash.
She was an eye-rollingly particular client; and I was a bratty “know-it-all.”
We chatted lots in those early days, as she followed me around to ensure I wasn’t cutting corners.
Then I started staying for tea. Then I started going for no other reason.
Joan was always a woman of dignity and class… and she was also a little feisty.
She wouldn’t have called herself strong, but she always was. Quiet… resilient… and strong.
She most often had a wide open laugh… and she always slapped her knee.
She listened with both ears.
She was a talented artist and she knew how to draw out that art that was still deep in me.
We suffered untimely losses of loved ones together.
We laughed at the quirks of our stubborn men together.
She welcomed my boys into the world as if they were her own blood.
And they called her Great-Gramoose.

I always swore, I’d never get too busy… I swore a lot of things before I had kids.
Over the past 6 months I kept telling myself I would visit her soon.
And a part of me had a feeling she might not be doing well…
But like so many of her era, she didn’t want to be remembered as old and frail.
And I respected her wishes, even if it meant I didn’t get to say what I needed to.
Like, thank-you… for doing life with me.
For telling me all about the good old days.
For giving me the gift of her wisdom.
For her kitchen tips and life hacks.
For making the world a little more beautiful by the art she created and the art that she lived.
For speaking the language of my heart.

Joan wasn’t my real grandmother.
But she was the one I desperately needed… and loved.
So, when you don’t get a chance to say good-bye… 

It’s comforting and more accurate to be able to say “see you again.”
Because I know I will.
In the meantime, she’ll have to take care of the piece of my heart that she took with her.

Love you Gramma Joan.