Because I Still Need to Talk…

I haven’t been able to bring myself to the computer, I just couldn’t face it. I took care of the boys and just got on with my business. Yesterday was especially tough, and with no rationale. If the truth be told, I thought I would be fine; that I would return to Montana and somehow slide slowly back into life. I knew the transition might be a bit rough and I’d probably experience some homesickness, but I had no idea how awful I would feel or just how long it would persist.

I was expecting some culture shock, in fact, I knew it would be inevitable. There really are no similarities between Scotland and Montana — even the grass is bright green this time of year over there. Then again, I’d never seen dead dormant grass before I came to the States.

But it’s not just the feeling of not being somewhere that I know and am drawn to, I now feel disconnected and, if I’m truthful, isolated and maybe even abandoned. Apart from a gaggle of friends, it’s just Bryan, me and the boys here, and there’s nothing like no family around to solidify the reality that you’re in the middle of nowhere. I grew accustomed to seeing my family everyday, especially my Mum, and never really realised how the full impact of not having that connection would affect me.

My Mum had exhausted herself. Ever since Gran was admitted on 30th October last year, she went and visited her every day, relentlessly for five-and-a-half months. She’d buy a weekly bus pass and ride two buses just to get there every day by 3 p.m. A nurse, Paul, later related that they held her in high regard for her dedicated visits. No other patient, I presume, was as fortunate.

The day after I first saw Gran, they moved her into her own room; something I soon realised was not a good sign. They told Mum it was because she had a “little bug” (read: C. difficile), and she did, but I knew better than that. I accepted a while ago that she was dying and I came to terms with it before I even set foot in the hospital. (She didn’t want to move to a hospice, and quite frankly, who can blame her? I wouldn’t have either. When Mum told me that, I said, “think about it though, you’re admitting that you’re done. It’s the last port and call.”] I was even composed during the funeral, which I was not expecting. I felt at peace though, I knew she was around and that she could see us all. It was raining quite heavily that day and the ground was especially sodden. I think Gran had the last laugh though.

Unlike American funerals (which I actually prefer, if you forgive the expression), the pall bearers are the ones to lower the coffin into the ground, it doesn’t sit on a low platform on top of artificial grass, closed from unimagining eyes and the stark reality of the situation.

The cemetery is on a hill overlooking the entire town, with a great view of the coastline and across the (mile-wide) river. It’s beautiful, and I’m sure even a lot more pleasant on a clear day too. Gran’s plot, therefore, is on an upward slant too, which I thought was rather cool, that was, until seven pall bearers had to stand at various locations around the grave site on planks of wood (I know…) in the sopping rain and attempt to lower her coffin into the ground on the slope. As they were steadily lowering it, I’d hazard a guess that about half of them lost their footing on the wet planks and slid a good half a foot, accompanied by a resounding gasp from the women, myself included. Bryan mentioned if it hadn’t have been for the leather strap he was holding that he used to counter-support his weight as he slipped, his grip may have slackened, and well…  Minutes later uncle Billy joked about it saying Gran “was just trying to pull Denis (my step-dad) in there along with her.” We all laughed pretty hard knowing how true that statement could have been.

My Gran’s death isn’t the first for me to experience in the family, but it has impacted me the deepest. It’ll be four weeks tomorrow since she died, and although I’m OK with it, I wasn’t really prepared for realising the entire ramifications of it all.

Days after we arrived home and while we were slowly still unpacking our things (seven suitcases, the majority being baby things, like the playpen, the fold up highchair, the back of Ian’s carseat…), I came across an old letter from her. My Gran has been writing to me since I was eleven (yes, OK twenty-two years), ever since she moved to Australia when she married a native and remained there for the ensuing fifteen years. We used to correspond frequently all throughout my adolescent and not-so-teenagery years too.

I looked at the date and it hit me: it was the last letter she ever wrote to me.

22nd Sept. 2007

She didn’t mention that she was now mostly house-bound and unable to go for her daily brisk walks. She didn’t talk about how she was in remission from the throat cancer after her recent bout of radiation. And she didn’t mention that she now had stomach cancer, if in fact she even knew at that point. As I read through her pages, it hit me: I’d never get another letter from Gran again. Ever. And that, was completely devastating. What a mind-numbing thought.

I was lucky enough to have my Mum and uncle say I was free to take any keepsakes I wished. There weren’t many things left over from when she had her home in Scotland in the 80’s, but a few select trinkets that made many great memories come rushing back. I’d go sleep over at my Gran’s every Saturday night, so I grew up being really close to her; pair that with seeing her usually two to three times a week and being her only grand-daughter and it may give a glimpse into the kind of relationship I had with her.

I am amazed at how grief affects us, me. It’s hard to explain. I’m not sad that she’s passed, but that the physical connection — even just a letter, has gone and won’t be returning. I suppose you could say it has made me view quite a few things differently now, and that’s why I’ve been so absent, at least from here. I just needed time to sort out everything and work through it. I can’t say I won’t have more bad days – especially like yesterday – but I feel better prepared now to tackle them on head first, just like I know she would have.

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21 responses to “Because I Still Need to Talk…

  1. this really really makes me want to give you a hug. i’m so sad you’re hurting.

  2. It gets better, it will be a hard walk, but it gets better.

    You are in our thoughts and prayers.

  3. anglophilefootballfanatic

    Oh, S. Can I just get in the damn car & drive up to see you? What is Bryan saying? Have you shared this with him?

  4. It’s harder for those left behind, isn’t it? You’re in my thoughts and prayers! Love you, hen… 🙂

  5. My heart aches for you that you are going through this loss. It’s a hard walk that you’re on now but know that you aren’t alone. We’re all here ready to be a shoulder to lean on. You’re in my thoughts and prayers . . . I just wish I could give you a big hug in person. (((((hug))))

  6. (((hugs)))
    Time will help. Although it’s hard to accept that you won’t get another letter from her, you can treasure the one that you do have…you are so lucky to have had a grandmother like her in your life. What a blessing.

  7. I am so sorry. It makes is a thousand times more difficult for you to grieve when there are no family members around for you to grieve with. So you are grieving for your gran, but also missing your family. It just sucks.
    I’m sorry.

  8. you have a lot to contend with. Its the settling in – which i can relate to – I am always very down after a trip to UK – hard to settle…probably why I try not to go as often now…then your Gran’s death and dealing with the grief almost ‘alone’ or away from your family. I hope the blog can help you share in a way with us. The writing may well bring relief in a way.

  9. Oh dear, Siobhan. I wish I could just give you a big hug right now. I don’t want you to feel lonely or lost. I hate feeling that way myself. I know that you know this life is just a tiny piece of the puzzle and you’ll see her again. You just need to be patient and know that she sees you more now than she did over the last few years. That’s quite exciting. I hope you start to feel better soon. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to cheer you up. Right now I’m in a pit of homesickness. My MIL bought a heap of cadbury chocolate and mcvities biscuits from some website and everywhere I go I see them. It’s getting exhausting. Sometimes it’s easier just to ignore the situation but it catches up with you eventually. Take care of yourself.

  10. When you stop and think about it, all of this seems rather trivial. And there’s little I or anyone else can say that will make it seem less so. But you are SO special a person – and much of what you are is because of and comes from your Gran, that sharing yourself with us is a way of sharing your Gran with us, as well. Those of us who have come to know and admire you owe her a debt of gratitude. So thank you. For coming back. And for sharing. And thank you, too, Gran.

  11. Reading this, I see many similarities to my relationship with my grandmother. I too was the only granddaughter and there was a time when I was growing up that we went over to their house every night for dinner. I grew up spending summer vacations almost entirely at my grandparent’s house. I was the first one to say that we (my brother and I) were spoiled by my grandmother…but she never saw it that way. She too was admitted to the hospital in October (of 2006) and then passed in April, six months later. It’s weird the similararities…but I guess my point is that I guess I can sympathize with what you’re feeling. I’m sending cyber huggs and warm thoughts your way. Take care…

  12. S, It is wonderful that you were able to express your thoughts and feelings in writing here so beautifully with us. As difficult as itis, I think that writing down our feelings regularly is very important and therapeutic. Everything you have said validates your journey, and it rings true with others. You are not only assisting your healing process, you have given a gift to your readers. All of us have or will pass through this lonely path that you are on right now. My own grandparents were moved to a care center last week. They are barely hanging on to mortality, and I know I must say goodbye soon. It is so hard to process when the people in our lives who were always our strength suddenly turn frail and must rely on us until they are taken Home. Of course I know their spirits will never die. You have already felt your Gran watching over you, and it gives comfort. However nothing can replace the physical loss and the pain is a deep valley to traverse. – Sending my love and prayers always

  13. i’m so sorry for the sadness you’re feeling – dealing with the double heartache of missing your family back in scotland, and grieving the passing of your gran. it’s a lot to process.

    i was thinking that when your gran moved to australia, she must have felt some of the same things you now feel in montana. having the courage to begin your life with bryan in a new place is another way you’ve taken after her.

    just as people responded when you shared in your blog about what you’re going through right now, i’d bet there are more people than you might realize around you there in missoula that really care about you and would want to be there for you if you were able to let them know what you’re feeling.

    i’ll be keeping you in my prayers.

  14. Just ran across this in the blogosphere, and it sure made me want to visit my grandma. Hope you are able to get over the hump soon. Time does heal all wounds. Hang in there!

  15. Oh dear. I am so sorry for your loss and that you are missing your family in Scotland. I can totally relate to feeling detached when I get back from a trip back to the UK. take care and I am sure it will get easier with time. Wish I could pop over and put the kettle on — a nice cup of tea always makes things better.

  16. *hugs*
    You can’t rush grief. And those moments that take your breath away may happen on and off for a long time to come. Consider this to be a reflection of the wonderful woman your Gran was and the wonderful woman she helped you to become. She’ll always watch over you and your family.

  17. Siobhan,

    I am so sorry for your loss. I am so glad that I stumbled upon this blog; Although most of what you will hear in times like this may sound cliche, that doesn’t make those advices incorrect.

    I am personally partial to the idea of putting one foot in front of the other. Taking a deep breath and picking one’s self up are valuable tools, not only in grief but in many areas of life.

    I am glad that you made it home for the funeral as that is a very valuable step in the grieving process for those of us that survive.

  18. I wish I could give you a hug. I can’t imagine what you are going through. Keep in touch.

  19. Awww I’m so sad that you are so sad.. I will pray for you.

  20. Pingback: A Lifetime in 6 Months «

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