Even if you have lost a loved one before, it never gets easier. And it's not something you really want to get easier. It's hard and it hurts because we love and have memories. We were created to have relationships--the most important one with our Creator--and so when any of those relationships fall apart, of course it's going to hurt. It is going against our reason for existence.
At 3am this morning, I lost my Grandma J. She was my dad's mom and my last living grandparent (my Grandpa, shown in the picture, died when I was 4). She would have been 92 tomorrow. She had four children, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
I have many memories of visiting her when I was little and her visiting us. We got baptized together. She used to let me take all her curling clips out in the morning and brush her hair. She came with my family on a cruise to Alaska. She always had really pulpy orange juice to drink. I was a flower girl in her wedding when she got re-married.
When I was a freshman in high school, she started forgetting things, making things up in conversations, and asking the same question over and over. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. Over the years, her body and mind started wearing down and she continued to have more problems with memory, sleeping, medication, etc. I talked to her on the phone regularly but the conversations became more and more difficult as she wouldn't remember who I was. When I went off to college, I rarely talked to her anymore. I do regret that I didn't still continue to call her and just talk and tell her I loved her. How do you have a relationship with someone who doesn't remember who you are? It's not easy of course, but many people do it. My aunt was amazing and spent so much time taking care of my grandma and visiting her. My dad would talk to my aunt and my grandma and give me reports of how she was doing.
This picture is from the last time I saw my Grandma J in October 2009 at my cousin's wedding.
Here's my Grandma just two weeks ago with her other son and one of her daughters. They are holding the plaque sent by Denny's CEO, acknowledging my Grandpa as co-founder of Denny's Restaurant 60 years ago. It was my Grandma's idea to name it Denny's. It had originally been Danny's Donuts but then when they expanded to another city they wanted to avoid confusion with Donut Dan's so my Grandma suggested just changing the 'a' to an 'e'.
I can't change the last few years. I can't turn back time and make all the phone calls that I didn't make. I can't change that my Grandma didn't remember me. I can't help that she wasn't at my wedding. I can't ever introduce my husband to her.
Hurt? Of course.
Memories? So many.
Death has a way of taking away that last ounce of control that we sometimes think we have. We can, to some degree, control how things go in a relationship as far as phone calls, visits, and taking the time to invest in another person. We can't control the outcome or their response, but we do still have some tiny grasp of control. And then, in the middle of the night, in a moment, we can lose even that. We lose the opportunity for any more chances. We lose that tangible relationship. We lose that comfort knowing that person is there.
And in that time of loss, every single memory comes pouring back with each tear. Those memories make you smile. They make you re-live a moment. You see that person again. You hear their voice. You feel their hand squeezing yours. You can even smell them.
So I could continue to kick myself for what I didn't do. But I can't change that. I have no control. And yes, that drives me crazy. But I have been learning over the past few years of my life how to continually let go of control time and time again. So instead of regrets, I am going to fill my mind with memories. The memories of swimming in her pool, petting her dog Nuggets, going to church with her, learning to read my first word while watching Sesame Street at her house. I'm going to hold on to those things. They also are things I cannot change. And for that I am thankful.
She was a wonderful Grandma and I am so thankful for the time I did have with her.
I love you Grandma J.