Death is for the Living

It’s been a year since Grandma died, I wrote a post on my facebook page on the actual date, but here I’d like to explore how complicated it is to grieve someone who was as beautiful, passionate and difficult as she was. We tend to romanticize the dead, we tend to forget any of the hardships that were caused by that person. My grandmother was a beautifully generous human but she was also stubborn, and extremely particular, which is something that I definitely inherited from her. She was hard to live with, she had rules that didn’t make sense to me, but I would walk through hot coals for her. Pat was what you’d consider a difficult person to her family but the most wonderful person to the people around her, memories shared by friends are so different from the dark parts that we saw even before she got sick.. She was an excellent teacher, many remember her as an extremely strict teacher, she was also an incredibly creative educator, who’s students learned a lot from her. One of them is a brain surgeon now, she taught him how to read, up until she got very sick, he still wrote to her, he still sent her a calendar of his photography from travels that you can only take when you are a brain surgeon or and equivalent. Humans are so multifaceted that boiling it down to only the good things is doing a disservice to their memory.

These conflicting emotions are something that after a person has gone from this earth we are not supposed to explore, however isn’t healthier to remember the person as they were and not exclusively the wonderful things that they contributed to their family and friends. We are all complete people with very dark and very light parts of our personality, when I go I don’t want to be remembered only by the good things I do, I want to be remembered as feisty, stubborn, creative and a little bit of an ass. Maybe growing up Irish Catholic I was taught to suppress anything that bordered on emotion, and it’s easier to smooth out the edges of a person who died because we are so afraid to speak ill of the dead. I have no interest in speaking ill of my grandmother, but I would like her to be remembered as she was, tough as nails, loving, but withholding to everyone except her grandchildren.

I think in order to become better at dealing with grief in death we need to tell all of those stories, we need to accept that everyone is imperfect, especially when it’s someone so close to you, someone you lived with for almost eight years. The processing of the complete person would make it easier to move on, if one of the stages of grief is anger why don’t we as a society choose to process that emotion along with the other ones, the denial, the depression, and the eventual acceptance. Anger is so frowned upon in our society, it’s a valid emotion and it’s so important when used productively, righteous controlled productive anger is so essential to making change in the world, but that is a different entry.

As a society we need to get better at processing death, we need to look at the person who has passed as a complete person and not the romantic version especially for those of us closest to that person. Thinking of a human in one dimension is a disservice to their memory, I at least want to be remembered as more than just the good parts of my life. Mistakes I’m positive that is how she would want to be remembered as well, she was proud of her stubbornness, she was proud of being the strict teacher and the strict mother, she was even more proud of being the doting grandmother.

I know that this post may anger family members, if it does, I’m not sure how well you knew her. She was a beautiful generous person who had wonderful flaws that made her what we all are, human.

It is possible to love someone without reservations, but to also remember them as they were. Generous, obsessive, creative, particular, and complicated. Humans are complicated and they don’t stop being so once they are gone.

Hold on to the good, hold tighter to the great, but remember we are all three dimensional people and should remembered as so.

I miss you Grandma, you were a beautiful part of my life, and continue to influence me to this day, I love you more than I can express, and even with the regrets I have about not being honest with you or not holding on to your lessons as tightly as I should have, I still think about you every day, I still wonder what life would have brought you if you had not been taken by dementia and cancer maybe we would have shed the Irish Catholic guilt and shared more of ourselves with each other.

Today I am stronger because of you, not only because of the wonderful wisdom and lessons that you taught me but also because of the imperfection that you showed me, that it was okay, that we could still be strong people despite all of that.

As always

With love

-bri