One of the hardest lessons about grieving that I learned when my brother died was that a memory could come out of nowhere and suddenly bring me to tears. In the first few months after my brother’s cancer diagnosis, I would see something or hear a song that reminded me of him and instantly I’d lose my breath, my throat would close, and tears would fill my eyes. Sometimes I ran to a ladies room to cry.
I would later learn that these episodes were anticipatory grieving. My brother’s bleak prognosis made me face the prospect of losing him. Although I’ll never know for sure, I sometimes think that bracing myself for my brother’s death lessened the blow for me when he passed away 14 months after his diagnosis.
The passing of my grandmother at the age of 94, three months shy of her 95th birthday, came with no warning. She was in the hospital after making it through surgery for a broken hip that resulted from a fall. She was in Honolulu, five hours away from me by plane, with loving family members, and I was sure I would see her soon to wish her a happy 95th birthday. But Grandma passed away after hospital staff tried to get her up and walking. She was too weak and in too much pain to start her physical therapy. Grandma worked hard her entire life and never sat still, and I think God told her it was finally time to rest.
This weekend I went to Target to find a Mother’s Day card for my mom, and the sight of Mother’s Day cards for grandmas triggered another out-of-nowhere moment. I stared at the word “grandma” on a card for what felt like a long time. A twinge of pain shot through me as I realized I didn’t need a grandma card anymore. Thoughts of Grandma ran through my head and my vision blurred with tears, but I was stronger this time, and I didn’t run to the ladies room to cry.
It’s ironic. I always thought of going to the store to buy cards for Mother’s Day as an errand, a to-do on my list, a chore. That’s not to say that I didn’t choose and send these cards with love. But now that I don’t have to buy cards for my grandma and my mother-in-law who passed away several years ago, I feel deprived.
Today I included two Mother’s Day cards in the box I sent my mom. Just because I can.
©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.