I don’t know where to begin. From the time I found out about my grandmother’s death until the time I flew to Pittsburgh to be with my family, my life became an absolute blur. I had some loose ends to tie up at work, proposal revisions to finish, analysis to do, a presentation to finish, and mundane (but vital) things to take care of. I was basically doing about three weeks’ worth of work in about 4 days, and it certainly felt that way. All of this while I was carrying the emotional baggage of a loss that was harder to take than I’d anticipated. Most of the time, I would appear to be fine, but then something small would happen, and I’d degenerate into a weeping mess. I had to take her picture down off of my office wall, because the sight of it was hard. It was a picture of the last time I ever saw her alive, and her gentle smile was just too much. I watched an episode of a TV show that depicted a funeral, and the tears just rolled down my face. As long as I didn’t really talk about it, I was OK. Thankfully, no one really wanted to talk about it, and so I could get through it. Who knew that our society’s ineptness with the realities of life could be so helpful?

Lack of sleep + pressing deadlines + grief is a pretty nasty combination, and I really don’t know how I got through it. My time in Pennsylvania was short, but actually pretty good. Despite the sad circumstances, my dad, sister, and I laughed, had fun, and managed to spend a lot of quality time together. My aunt, uncle, and cousin arrived a little later, and we all really came together as a family. It was nice, and the sense of comfort I felt was really the only thing that kept me sane. I wasn’t sure if it was OK to have fun, but as my uncle told us, “Life is for the living. Even during times of loss, you have to continue on.” And he was right. Grandma wasn’t one who liked being fussed over, and she wouldn’t have wanted us to stop doing things out of some superstitious notion of what grief should be. She was also hilarious, even in her last few days, so the occasional silliness just seemed right.

The visitation was fairly well attended, and I was able to reconnect with a few distant relatives whom I hadn’t seen in over a decade. I think that the visitation is when reality hit all of us, and the first few minutes were hard, but the kind words and the presence of others were very helpful. The funeral was the next morning, and was attended only by close family and a friend of hers. As sad as it was, there was a sense of peace and acceptance, and of closure. She was always a cheery person, and she never wanted to be a burden or to suffer. As bad as it was, I’m glad that she suffered for only a few months, rather than years as many people do in their old age. She left this world surrounded by people who cared for her, and if there is a Heaven, I know she’s there. I can only hope that I see her there one day.

I’ll miss you, Grandma.