Friday I got a call from my dad telling me that my grandma had gone into hospice. With fluid continuing to fill her lungs, she wasn't expected to last much longer.
Sunday morning I got another call from my dad telling me she had passed away. I found myself strangely unaffected by the news and fell back asleep after I got off the phone. I mean, I knew that it was coming soon - had actually expected the call. But I didn't feel much of an emotional pull. My grandma and I were never terribly close - outside of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter I never saw her. If anything, I felt bad for not feeling bad. I know I'll feel more when I see her lifeless form in the casket on Tuesday, but for now what I'm feeling isn't sadness. I have not yet begun to mourn the loss of my grandma. What I'm feeling right now...can only be described as "drive". Allow me to explain...
The death of my grandma has thus far helped to give me a new perspective on death - not completely life-altering, but a unique mindset about it. It has also brought into perspective the unequivocal, and yet so elusive a concept as the circle of life: the never-ending, ever-repeating circle of life to which we are all bound, no matter what god, deity or universal energy you may believe to govern the world.
My new perspective on death is this: yes, mourn the fallen and feel the loss the lack of their presence inherently brings; but let the qualities of the fallen be imbued unto the living, the successors who helped bring meaning to that person's life, the successors who will ultimately become predecessors, themselves. And let that drive them! Let that become a reason for pushing beyond the normal limits of life, for transgressing the boundaries by which so many of us feel trapped! For example:
My grandma's most notable quality (to me, at least) was her indomitable will, her strength of mind. She was a very strong-willed person, unable to be kept down by anyone who had the mind to try. I remember two instances when my grandma most affected me. The first: my mom had told me to take my pillow from the staircase up to my room - I don't remember her saying this because I apparently didn't hear it. Grandma did, though. I was probably 6, and my grandpa was suffering from Alzheimer's, so they had moved in with us for a time. When Grandma took me into the living room and grabbed me by the shoulders, she forced her iron will upon me, sternly berating me for ignoring my mother's wishes. Looking back on that now, I realize her own children must have been too terrified to ignore their mother's wishes! As a youth barely into my first years of elementary school, I couldn't help but break down and cry at my grandmother's old-fashioned form of discipline. I'm surprised she didn't have Grandpa's belt or a 2x4 in her hand.
The second instance: instead of my mom telling me to take my pillow upstairs, she told me at dinner to finish what I had on my plate. I either wasn't hungry or didn't like it - probably a combination of both - but I still didn't finish it. Mom didn't notice, but Grandma did. She took me into the living room, much to the same effect as the first encounter.
While these two instances show a side of my grandma that could be a bit overwhelming, it also shows her raw spirit. Even as a 70-year-old grandmother, she was doing her best to instill her principles - and the 4th commandment - into me. These two stories are not the only instances of her showing her strength. Many more exist that I cannot name. So much spirit. So much raw strength in her core. I cannot let that die with her. Her strength and her spirit will persevere in this all-too-often unprincipled world, if not through her children, then through her children's children...although I can readily assure anyone reading this that her strength has already been imbued into her children more than she could have hoped. No, I do not think my grandma's strength will die with her her. Not a chance.
My grandma's death has also helped me realize the reality of the circle of life. Life doesn't end when one passes away. Many times it begins for others. Case in point: me. I graduated from OU not a month ago and started my first job two weeks ago. My life, in a certain retrospective light, is just beginning. I have officially begun to make my way into the professional world. It's not the beginning. But it is a beginning. And my grandma's death is not the end. But it is an end.
Survivors of death cannot let that void go on unfilled, though. We must fill it with our own passion. With our own indomitable will. Hence, why I say that I feel driven because of my grandma's death. I feel driven to fulfill my own dreams and aspirations with my grandma's strength to help me along. I wish I could have known her better, though. I wish I would have taken more time to get to know this incredible woman. That sounds completely cliche, but true emotions sometimes are.
As I write this another memory comes to me. Two years ago at Christmas my grandma had not been faring so well, having trouble breathing on her own - she carried a small oxygen tank around with her. It was time to leave and she wasn't able to walk out the door unaided. Some of us attempted to carry her in a chair. She would have none of it, though. She made us put her down. Standing up, she proceeded to the door unaided, unwilling to let her spirit falter. An independent woman, her amazing strength carried the day and she made it out to the car with only partial assistance, tank and all.
An incredible woman to say the least. That act inspires me now. I only pitied her at the time, but I realize she wouldn't want that - would in fact despise my pity. Now, though, I admire her for it. Her refusal to relinquish control over the course of her own life...some may say that is weakness. I call it strength.
I will use the strength she has given me through the actions of her life. I will use the beratement I received as a child to toughen my skin and straighten my backbone. I will use the independence she displayed that Christmas night to fuel my own drive for independence, to be able to accomplish it so well and so visibly as she. I will persevere.
Here's one thing I wanted to add on but couldn't find a place for it...I know, awkward segue.
I do not know if there is such a thing as God, such a thing that is ever-present and all-knowing, deciding whether we will spend our eternity past St. Peter's pearly gates or eternally tormented, paying the cost of our sins throughout our mortal life. I couldn't tell you the validity or falsehood of these claims, not knowing enough about it and not having the faith, or lack thereof, to verify any perspective. I do feel, though, that the spirit, even beyond death, finds a way to endure. Whether through reincarnation or some celestial form, I feel that the spirit does not die, cannot die, especially a spirit like my grandma's. Hence, why I feel my grandma's strength and drive in me, coursing through my veins and throwing another log on the fire that is my dreams.