My grandmother passed away on Friday evening, after a less than two month battle with lung cancer. Not even two months between her diagnosis and her funeral. It just doesn’t seem real.
Everyone says that I should be glad that she went quickly, so she wasn’t forced to suffer the horrors of cancer in the way that so many people do. And I am grateful for that. She deserved a peaceful passing after being on this earth for 83 years.
But selfishly, I wish we all had more time to come to terms with it. She was our family’s matriarch, for crying out loud. The glue that held us all together. And now that glue is gone. Ripped away, leaving us all to fall apart.
You see, she is/was my dad’s mother. My dad who passed away four years ago. His family is the only family that I have close by. My mom is from England and that is where all of her family is. So I clung to my grandmother, because she gave me roots here. She gave my mom roots.
My dad was the sole reason why my mom moved to this country. His family became hers. Not as a replacement for her family back in England, but a new one that welcomed her with open arms. My grandmother treated her like a daughter.
So first, my mom loses her husband, the love of her life. She lost the center of her life here. Of course she still had me and and my little family that I had created, but his passing made her truly long for her family back home. Even though she still had a family here, her adopted one. Which wasn’t the same, but it was enough.
My grandmother lived nearby. She called pretty much daily. She brought the whole family together on holidays and other special occasions. We all love each other, but we get so caught up in our own lives that we don’t often make time for one another. But for my grandmother, we were her life. She made sure that we came together as one unit and supported each other, even when we didn’t always agree with one another.
But now, the central piece of our family is gone. And it’s up to us to keep it together. That’s one hell of a job. We are going to try our best, but I think we are all scared. And overwhelmed.
And my mom. My poor mom. She loses her husband, and now her mother-in-law. The closest person that she had to a mother in this country. Her will to stay here is growing weaker, losing piece by piece of the family that she has here. She would never, under any circumstances, leave me, my husband, and my kids. But if she could get us to move back over there with her? She would be back in England.
And then there is my own reaction to her death. I know for certain that it has yet to sink in. She was my Mamu, the grandma that loved us all so fiercely. Each child born into the family was truly a gift to her. She could be a real pain in the ass sometimes, as elderly people tend to be. (But let’s be real, she was sort of a pain in the ass before she got really old). She was stubborn and argumentative and steadfast in her beliefs. She was a Taurus, after all. She had an answer for everything, and those answers would contradict whatever you were trying to say.
She struggled with the fact that I didn’t follow Jesus and didn’t believe in God like the rest of the family. She wasn’t terribly preachy about it, but I know that deep down, it ate away at her. Before she died, she told me that she was afraid that she wouldn’t see me in heaven because I hadn’t accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. I eased her worries by telling her that I don’t know what I’ll believe down the road. And I don’t. I am content in my beliefs now, but she may place something in my path that turns it all around.
But despite our differences of opinion, she accepted my “flower child” personality, as she called it. She said that I was born in the wrong decade. And she was probably right. She was proud of me. For being a hard working and successful student as I made my way through school. For being grateful and polite and humble. For giving her three pretty awesome great-grandchildren. For making time for her, despite all of my other obligations.
I will miss her voicemails of “Hi Ash, it’s Mamu. Give me a call.” And then five minutes later, a comment or private message on Facebook simply saying “Call me”. I will miss her asking for computer advice. I will miss her conversations about people who I didn’t remember or maybe had never even met in the first place. I will miss our restaurant visits where she insisted that I order whatever I wanted. Because of her, I ate lots of lobster and escargot and filet mignon before I was even a teenager.
We are all grieving. Wallowing in our sadness. We’re allowed to do that for a while. But eventually, we will pick ourselves up and work on what Mamu wanted us to do… love. Love one another and stick together. With new glue. Whatever or whoever that may be.