I suspect this is a post not many will want to read. This is not a happy post to show off adventures or rock formations or friends I’ve met in my travels. This is a post to vent my loneliness. Because, while we all lose loves in our lives, there is another twinge of pain that strikes when you are so far away.
I lost my grandmother Thursday morning, Colorado time. My alarm was just sounding for the second time in New Zealand, Friday morning.
“She passed away this morning. Don’t fret, she’s not suffering anymore.”
It was the text that woke me.
Losing someone is never easy. And for some reasons I am thankful I was not around for the final days my grandmother laid in bed. My father was there the whole time. He heard her cry out, her voice fade to a whisper. He watched her eyes close, her hand slowly reach out. He was alone. He was right there with her, surrounded by people the entire time, and yet he was alone.
Death is a lonely experience. We all face it alone and our loved ones grieve alone.
And yet, I felt a whole new sense of isolation this morning.
I avoided work. I needed a day. The bed was too comfortable, and I turned over and went back to sleep. But even my unconsciousness couldn’t protect my heart.
I dreamt of telling someone she died and the pain stuck with me until I opened my eyes, where for a brief second I had forgotten. But as my eyes adjusted to the yellow tinted curtains and I heard birds chirping outside, I remembered.
I remembered she loved to watch the birds. She’d sit on the back porch in her robe, which had always fallen over her shoulder, and admire them as they cautiously grabbed a seed from the feeder box before swiftly flying away. She also loved the squirrels. They were a bit more playful and would chatter at the birds to get out of the way. The squirrels were energized; they would run full speed, 360 degrees around branches before lapping back around for another sunflower seed.
We used to watch them in silence.
I remembered the email I sent her signed “Lady Bug”, the nickname she gave me. She will never read it. It will remain unread in her inbox.
I remembered this blog. I will update it and she won’t ever see it. I will never get one of her loving comments innocently misunderstanding how one comments on an online public website. Her comments made me laugh. She once left an essay that I hid because no one wants to read a three page comment. But I do.
I remembered I am on the other side of the world. I cannot feel the warmth of my father’s hug or see the smirk on my brother’s face. I cannot touch my grandmother’s belongings to feel a false sense of her lingering existence. I cannot sit in silence around the dinner table with my family as we sulk and occasionally share a funny memory of that stubborn woman.
It is all happening, but I am not present.
I cracked open a beer at 11am, walked around the house with glazed eyes. I did not see the sun. I remained in bed within the darkness of my room, letting the computer screen light up my eyes and distract my noisy mind.
And while I am lucky to have my father on the phone to laugh and cry with, there is no cure for this loneliness.
But it’s okay. And it is okay for two reasons.
One: my father will be here in a matter of days. We will have each other to grieve with while sharing the wonders of New Zealand.
Two: the last words my grandmother whispered to me will always ring in my ear.
“I love you. Remember.”