Most of us come into this world kicking and screaming. With that first big breath we've each begun our journey on our particular road of life with all of its inherent twists and turns, ups and downs, and stops along the way. It can be a bumpy ride or a smooth ride, it can take us to points far away or leave us in our own backyards but for each journey there is no map, we navigate our life's road with our own personal compasses leading the way.
How we leave this life is as different as the ways that we live our lives - some quietly, some with dignity, some as large as the lives they've lived, some hell-bent for leather, and some fighting the whole way not wanting to let go until the very end. For the most part we probably don't have a choice in how our life ends. For some our lives are snatched away in the blink of an eye as the result of some unexpected tragedy, for some our lives end with machines providing our final gasps of air, and for others our lives end while we're so doped-up on medications to ease our pain that our physical bodies have no clue that our loved ones surround us while Death comes to greet us and extends his hand to help us over to the other side.
Jen's grandmother passed away this morning after spending 86 years on this planet following her own life's journey. From what Jen tells me, I picture her Gram as a fiercely independent woman - a woman who's family loved her for her feistiness as well as her kindness. As Jen was the child of a single parent household whose mother worked the overnight shift, her grandmother's house was her second home - the place she spent her nights before going to school in the morning, the home she spent summers at, and even now the place she lives with her own family while she awaits her house to be renovated. Because of this and more, Jen's grandmother was a big a part of her life and with her passing there is now a large empty hole that can only be filled with memories.
My own grandmother used to say "it's a shame to get this old and then die" and I guess I have to agree with her to a certain extent. It seems that just as we get to the point in our lives where we've figured out all the answers and can now pass some of that sage advice on to others so that their own journey might be a little smoother we come to the end of our road. For those who have lived long lives and are ready to lay down their burdens and rest, we can't begrudge them their passing though we know that we'll miss them for the rest of our own lives.
It's never easy to let someone go. My beloved grandfather died 34 years ago this on the 22nd of this month. He had leukemia and had become a shadow of his former self; he was ready to go and he welcomed Death into his home as he would have any welcome visitor for he felt that he'd lived a good life and his job here was done. As a 14-year old who idolized her grandfather, I wasn't ready to let him go but Death is Death and it doesn't care one iota about those it leaves behind. Over three decades later I still miss my grandfather like it was just yesterday but as an adult I can understand now his desire to leave this life to go onto whatever awaits us.
Jen's grandmother also opted to avoid the inevitable by refusing dialysis for her renal failure. I believe that she, like my grandfather, felt that she had lived a good life and was ready for her eternal rest. It wasn't that she wouldn't miss the people she left behind but she had traveled a long journey and had grown weary of the road. In our own grief and loss it's hard to understand why someone would want to leave this life behind but as I grow older myself, I begin to understand it better. In time I'm sure that Jen will, too.
In the meantime, I hope Jen remembers her grandmother as the vibrant woman she once was so that she can pass those memories along to her own children and they, too, will come to know the grandmother that Jen loved so dearly through the stories and remembrances that she shares with them. Someone is never truly dead or gone as long as we keep their memory alive in our hearts and take it out from time to time to cherish and share with others.