Grief: Dealing with the loss of a loved one

The unexpected thing about grief is that you can never know how it will affect you or your loved ones. In life there are only two complete certainties: the first is that life is unexpected, and the second, death is inevitable. But i always thought I had more time. i thought that I’d be able to have another weekend, another week before I needed to start thinking about the fact that my grandfather was gravely ill and he might not survive his battle.

 On Friday, December 14th, 2018, my family and I lost my grandfather. Two years ago, i learned that he had throat cancer, 9 months ago, I learned that he was refusing life altering treatments to prolong his life, and a day ago, i learned that he wouldn’t survive the evening. his passing is incredibly hard to digest, and I’m still wondering why my eyes are still dry after learning the news that my mother was by his side until his last breath. I’m 100% certain that eventually, the flood gates will open and it will hit very very hard.

 My grandfather wasn’t a perfect man: he was flawed and he had his faults. However, the one thing i will never take away from him was his love for his children, the love he had for his grandchildren and that of his only great grandchild. when my daughter was 2 years old, I decided to visit my grandparents and introduce her to them. Let me explain though – I hadn’t seen them in over a decade, if not more, losing touch when my sister and I were 14. for my daughter, i would reconnect with them.

 The first moment that he saw my daughter for that very first time, taking her in his arms, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a connection that the two of them would have that I don’t believe i had ever experienced with him, and that look is forever seared in my mind. My daughter couldn’t look away from him, nor he, her, and she would have two year old conversations with him that only the two of them would ever understand.

 Later, my mother would go visit her parents, and we would tag along. Always, my daughter instantly drawn to my grandfather. She was never afraid of barging in his home and in her own way ask for whatever she wanted (and by ask, I can still remember her saying ‘Pappi Noir, I need [so and so] because me and ma tante are going to do [so and so]. Where is it??’ And he would get up from his stool and get it for her).

 My grandfather loved his music, his instruments and his signing. It was his greatest passion in life. He had a room dedicated in his home to just his music instruments, and my mother would tell us at a young age that we had to be extra careful when looking in that room and not to touch them since they were extra special. My sister and iIwould attempt to touch them until we were caught and my grandfather would take his accordion out and play for us. When my daughter stumbled into that same room, we weren’t paying attention. I panicked. My grandfather had known she was there, knew she was looking at those instruments, and he never said a word. he saw her touch it, try to figure how it worked and simply took the instrument out and played for her. she was instantly mesmerized. Next thing I knew, he handed her the instrument and showed her how it worked.

 You see, my grandfather took out his favorite accordion for her to play with, not the black ‘child’ accordion that all the kids were allowed to touch. It was his favorite.

 Years later, during another visit to my grandfather’s, my daughter once again was snooping around his home and noticed some toy tractors and trucks – she started playing with them before we turned and asked her if she had asked permission to do so. Of course, he had seen every moment of her picking up those toys and never said a word, so he said she could play with them. She was extra careful, grateful that she could play with those tractors. What I didn’t know was that one of those toys was the last gift he had ever gotten from his own father and it was precious – no one was allowed to play with it. But for my daughter, he said yes. He let her play with the toy and didn’t say a word.

 Remember that connection they had the first moment they met? It carried on. my daughter would draw pictures that he hung on his fridge or would keep on his favorite counter. The night he passed away, my daughter dreamt of him – dreamt he was giving her the opportunity to buy whatever her heart wished, and she laughed, loving that she was with him. she remembers him and has beautiful memories of him. And he loved her like no other, giving her everything her heart could have ever wanted.

 I have beautiful memories of him as well – his freezer full of fudgesicles, his endless bowls of candies
that he would always ask us if we wanted, and four wheel rides across his land that spread out further than the eye could see. Especially, all the number of times he would call the weather network on speed dial on his phone to make sure the weather wouldn’t change at the last minute.

 Why do I write this? Because quite honestly, we shouldn’t take time for granted and I did that. I was lucky though because I had my chance to say my peace, tell him I loved him and have him hear my daughter sing. Spend time with your family because you never know when it’ll be the last time you see them. I had so many excuses why I couldn’t come with my parents to see my grandparents – my renos, I was sick, my daughter had plans… too many excuses. And I didn’t call him on his birthday because I
forgot. I wish I didn’t have the excuses, didn’t forget to call him on his birthday… just no excuses.  The holidays are about being grateful that you can spend time with your loved ones. Remember why family is important and why life is so very unexpected. 

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