Grief is complicated

Originally posted on April 4, 2018. 

So I went on a journey this last weekend to find my grandparents’ graves.

I was in Houston anyway after dropping a friend off at the airport and I don’t get much time off to go adventuring between work and school.

I didn’t expect it to be so gut-wrenching. They died 13 days apart in February, but I thought I was more healed by now.

I haven’t been up that way since they moved to Dallas almost a decade ago—there’s been no reason to. But my childhood with them was spent here. A little sob bubbled up as I drove past the Luby’s cafeteria in Tomball where we used to meet them for dinner, the nurseries where we went with Gram to buy her beloved plants, the hardware stores where Pa took us to get tools for a project.

Way up north in the woods along the parkway, I pulled off into a lovely wooded cemetery, which was oddly somehow more painful because it was so peaceful. I knew there’s not a headstone yet, so I asked an older lady raking leaves off the graves if she would help me find my grandparents, and ended up apologizing and sobbing onto her shoulder. She didn’t mind—she didn’t work there but she was tending her son’s grave and praying the rosary. The irony of asking someone where my loved ones were buried on Easter Sunday struck me, especially a woman who buried her son.

We walked the park together, looking for two fresh graves side by side. Another younger woman visiting her dad’s grave joined us. She said she doesn’t visit this place often since she lives out of town now, but every time she comes she talks to someone, and she said it’s like her dad is whispering to her, “don’t cry.”

They left me beside two graves, where I ended up ugly crying and thinking about just how difficult believing in rebirth really is when you’re faced with a grim reality. But then, I realized I was probably at the wrong grave—the dirt was too fresh.

So I wandered through the baby garden, past a young couple leaving Easter eggs for the child they just laid to rest, until I found another recent grave—two marked side by side. I knew this had to be it because someone left a basket of purple mums and Gram always loved mums. I’d already cried everything I had inside me, so I just whispered, “I love you,” and drove off into the twilight.

On the way back, I drove through their old neighborhood and stopped outside the house they built in 1993, where all 5 aunts and uncles and spouses and all 14 grandkids came every Thanksgiving all growing up. I remembered the go-cart races down the street and how their one acre backyard felt like a jungle to all of us kids—the biggest backyard we’d ever played in.

I cried again in the twilight, not wanting all that to be gone and just wishing I could walk inside and find them the way I remember them. I’m not ready to let go of my childhood yet.

A woman in a neon pink shirt walked toward me up the driveway. I apologized for creeping outside her house and told her my grandparents used to live here and they just passed away. She asked what their names were, and I told her. She said she still gets their mail. I told her family stories until dark came.

She said, “I hope you had good memories to come back to, even if it was sad.” I said yes, smiled and started driving back home.

Grief is complicated, dear heart. This post is for anyone else who is struggling to hope right now or has lost more than they thought possible too soon.

It’s okay to feel that and it’s okay to not be healed right away. This is coming from someone who spent half an hour gut-sobbing in front of the wrong grave. 💗

From February 15, 2018: 

So, I don’t have any grandparents anymore.

My grandmother died this afternoon. I think she must have missed my grandfather an awful lot. He died on Feb. 2 and they were married for 69 years.

Have you guys ever watched the very final scene of Titanic where Rose, having told her whole story, goes to the edge of the ship, drops the jewel over the side, and falls asleep and dies and is reunited with Jack?

I was thinking of it tonight and I’ve been rewatching the clip and crying.

It reminds me of Gram and Pa and how much they loved each other. I think because they were high school sweethearts who eloped at 16 and 17 and ran away together to start a life and family.

If anyone had a Titanic love story in real life, it was them.

I love you, Gram and Pa. 💔

Written February 2, 2018:

So my grandfather passed away last night. I don’t know how to feel because it’s like I’ve been grieving him for years, ever since he didn’t know who I was anymore.

I loved going to the air show with him after my sister was born in 1996. I loved his stories about growing up on a farm in south Texas during World War II. I still have the model plane he built for me. 1930 to 2018 is a long time, Pa.

Maybe the thing I remember most about you is the day you came back from prison ministry with my dad in Beaumont and you hugged me so tight against your cold leather jacket and said, “Honey, don’t ever go to prison.” I knew you wanted to protect me.

You remember the first cars and, always the mechanical one, you loved tinkering around with new inventions even when iPads seemed foreign to you and Gram. I’d like to think I got some of your curious, engineering spirit.

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