I have to preface this post by making it clear that rarely can I blog in "real time". There is always something else that needs to be done, the words for the experience aren't there, or like this particular experience, it wasn't finished yet. I started this post in September, but couldn't finish it because it wasn't finished with me... until last week. I was finally able to 'record' it today.
Company was coming. That meant one thing… house cleaning. And lots of it!
A prominent feature in this deep cleaning whirlwind always includes de-cluttering the desk. I have an image to uphold and I certainly didn’t want my guests to think my desk always looks like the paper shredder threw up on it. So I sorted, filed, and threw away, and somewhere between unused, expired coupons and statements of all sorts, it showed up again.
A Christmas card.
Addressed and stamped.
Unmailed and unopened.
I come across this same card every time I clean the desk and each and every time it goes back there to be dealt with at another time. This ritual has continued for the last twelve months. I can’t throw it away. There isn’t anywhere to file it. I can’t even send it this year. The addressee, my Grandma Viola, died the morning I was to mail it.
My mom phoned me the night before to let me know that Viola had suffered a stroke. She told me that she was still lucid, but she was having a difficult time eating. I’m not dumb, I know what those words really meant…Viola wasn’t doing well and her time left here was short.
I knew that her 93 year old body was failing, as we had visited her earlier in the year and I found her dramatically changed from our last visit. I left the retirement home trying to stave off the flood of tears until I was in the car and my face hidden from the kids. I failed miserably- the dam broke. Luckily, Richard explained to the inquiries of”Why is mom crying?” that it was hard for me to see my grandma so weak, frail, and bedbound. But I knew it was more than that- much more. I knew that this was the last time I would see her in this life.
Even with such knowledge, I had been in denial and figured there was always more time. Now with a phone call, I was facing the reality that time had run out.
I felt badly, that as always, I was behind and hadn’t even gotten her Christmas card mailed yet. Mom said it would be good to send it anyway and perhaps, it would get there in time. So I gathered the card and a family picture, I addressed the envelope, but I couldn’t write the sentiments in the card. Words failed me. How do you adequately express to someone who is dying how much you love them and what the part they’ve played in your life has meant to you? Words were not enough, so I went to bed determined to try again after a night’s sleep.
Moring came and so did the words. But even as I penned those words, walked the card to the mailbox, and put up the red flag, I knew
. It was too late. Another phone call from my mom confirmed it. I retrieved the card from the mailbox and laid it in its final resting place on the desk.
Arrangements were made and so was our trip to LaGrande for the funeral.
I have never been one to deal well with death. My emotions run close to the surface and I become the leaky faucet you can’t fix. I don’t cry for those who have passed; I know they have been welcomed into loving arms. It’s the loving arms left behind which are now empty, the great-grand children that are too small to remember the loved one that filled the void, the absence that must be endured until we meet again, that is what I cry for.
I did pretty well at the funeral. I held the tears mostly at bay, forming a headache from the built up pressure, until the reading of Viola’s life sketch. As my mom read about the grandma I had know my whole life, I realized I never really knew
her at all. It is a devastating feeling when you learn more about a loved one at their funeral listening to their life sketch, than you did from visiting with them in life. I didn’t know she played basketball, that she worked in a bank, or that she loved to fish the lakes of my beautiful British Columbia.
I simply didn’t know and I hated myself for it.
Grandma Viola is my step-grandma, but since she married my grandpa before I was born she was the only grandma on my mom’s side I’d ever known. She was loveable, quick to laugh, and always had a candy dish filled to the brim, waiting to rot our teeth out and spoil us senseless- just what grandmas are supposed to be. I never felt like I was a ‘step’ down from her “normal” grandkids. She was always interested in how we were doing, what we were doing, she even asked questions about boys, and always wanted to see my latest dance or gymnastic routine. Sure, she lived 8 hours away from us, but we visited once or twice a year, corresponded through letters and phone calls, and I always felt connected. She loved me just like a grandma should. She loved me… that was the one thing I knew for sure- Grandma Viola loved me.
Sitting in the chapel enduring the remainder of the funeral, as I thought about the things I had just learned, I wished for 10 minutes, just 10 more minutes to visit with her, ask the questions I now desperately wanted answered; learn the most important things about her I should know. And now every time the card makes its way to the top of the pile I call a desk, the same wish passes through my mind; last week’ s de-cluttering session was no different, but the answer was.
As softly as the falling snow that flitted outside my window the words fell into my conscious thinking.
“You already know.”
As I stopped to ponder what these words meant, I found that perhaps my Christmas card wasn’t my last expression of love to my grandma, but hers to me.
The most important thing I should know was that she loved me.
And now there are no questions left unanswered.