Sunday, January 21, 2024

Reflections: On Memories, Family and Healing


Hello everyone.

I know you were expecting Part Two of My 2023 Recap. However, some major events have happened which will put it on hold ... at least momentarily.

The picture is old but the expression reflects how I'm feeling ... just processing.

Let me get you caught up.

On Tuesday, January 9th, I got a phone call about my grandma. For those who may be unaware, my grandma (along with my late grandpa) raised me. I was able to read between the lines that there was a sense of urgency. I was able to arrange time off from my job. My best friend was as well. Flights were too expensive, so driving had to be the way to go.

Keep in mind that it's about an eighteen-hour drive (and that is without the stops for filling up the gas tank, using the restroom, snacks, etc).

Also, keep in mind, that Mother Nature has been cutting up 😟. Rain, ice, wind gusts, threats of snow ... you name it ... we were going to encounter the way down as well as the way back.

Yet, I sensed that if I didn't go now, then the opportunity would pass. We would just pray, pace ourselves, and drive as safely as we could.

We got to MS on Saturday (1/13) afternoon/evening. Visited with her on that day and the next at her home.

When Monday (1/15) rolled around (MLK Jr. Day), she was taken to the hospital due to having difficulty breathing. Needless to say, there were many complications to the point where the doctors were saying to "just make her comfortable".

By Thursday (1/18) evening, she hadn't been as responsive.

This past Friday (the 19th), it was time to make the trek back to NJ. Since my best friend had to return to work on Sunday, this meant us having to make it to Roanoke VA (equivalent to twelve hours of driving). I called the hospital that morning and was initially told she was stable. I told my best friend that I would call on Saturday to check in, but only after we had driven somewhat and gotten to a stopping point.

On Saturday, I was not feeling well. Had a tiredness I couldn't shake. Was in a tremendous amount of pain. My best friend said she would start the drive. I believed that after a while, I might be okay to drive. We only had six, six and a half hours tops before making it to NJ, but the area had received snow and now we were battling wind gusts and possible ice.

Two and a half hours before I made it to NJ, I received the call.

Grandma was now with Grandpa. She had transitioned.

There is a special spot in my home. It's in the living room, in the far right-hand corner.

On the cobblestone wall is a huge framed copy of "Footprints" which has gotten me through the toughest of times. Taped to the glass is the program of my grandfather's homegoing, a very old picture of my grandma that I doubt she knows I have (she never liked taking pictures; Grandpa was like that, too), and a picture of my grandma I just recently found when she attended the MHS honors ceremony I was a part of in 1995.

Perpendicular to "Footprints", this hangs on the wall. Initially, I had purchased it with the intent of giving it to her when I visited, but each time, I kept forgetting. Perhaps there was a reason for that. Under that are pictures that my best friend and I took with her. Grandma did worry about how she looked (that was always a thing with her), but we both assured her that she looked fine.

Grandma was around for 102 years. Many perceive that as a blessing. In some ways, it is.

On the flip side of that, your best friends and your children can possibly (and more than likely) die before you.

You can even lose your spouse who you thought would outlive you.

Losing Grandpa was such a shock to us. He was always very active, long after he retired, and to be taken the way he was hurt everyone terribly.

Death can serve as the cohesion for fractures among the living. That is what the heads of households would want. Harmony among their children. That is the most positive outcome.

The flip side of one's passing is that wounds cut deeper. New fractures are created. The struggle on how to process grief and move forward, causing further distance for those who remain.

That is the side that isn't talked about. Perhaps it happens, more often than not.

Being raised by one's grandparents, in my opinion, is different than being the grandchild who comes to visit every once in a while. Or even the one that is around for holidays or the summer.

I was able to gauge reactions, emotions, and viewpoints from my grandparents that one could not ascertain unless one was around them daily.

I became their listening ear. On the lighter topics. On their grumbles with each other. On the things that bothered them and how they tried to deal with it as best they could. Even when they didn't speak about their sadness, I could feel the emotional and spiritual temperature change when it happened. It's a lot to absorb and a lot to process.

Some people believed that the reason I didn't talk much was due to being standoffish. Those who really know me realize that conclusion is laughable.

I don't believe in talking just to be talking. I was not a gossip. I have always believed there is more value in listening than talking, and if you do say something, make it something worth saying. Also, anyone who confided in me never had to worry about anyone else being privy to the information.

My grandpa wanted peace in the family. He spoke on that several times. My grandma shared that sentiment to a great degree.

Yet with the existence of free will comes the choice to follow one's wishes or not. His sudden passing put a magnifying glass on the fractures that cut deeply, for some, decades.

It is not my place to weigh in. Particularly situations in which I was never involved. Despite it seeming as if I've been around forever, I haven't even made 50 yet.

I can listen to others' experiences but I am not equipped to place judgments on validity or to dictate what someone should do in response to the offenses of someone else, especially if they are egregious and highly unthinkable or unfathomable.

All I know is that as I sit here, looking at the favorite mugs that Grandma and I would sip coffee from (and sit on the porch), the remaining children have to decide if what they are holding to are the hills they want to die on. Or if there is a way to facilitate healing while setting boundaries in place. The latter doesn't mean to forget. The scars of the past are important and serve as reminders and lessons moving forward.

I've learned in my self-reflection and healing that multiple things can be true. What changes is how one perceives, responds, and moves.

I can recognize when I've viewed people through a faulty lens and not through my own experiences. And, just because someone I'm in proximity with had a tough experience with, doesn't necessarily mean that will be my outcome.

On the flip side, I can also recognize when I've held someone in high regard due to the proximity of others' expectations, and how hurtful it is when that is not the case as the years have gone by.

The changes in people can go in different directions, so the responses to the changes have to coincide.

Whatever happens, I will continue to cite the prayers of my grandparents for harmony and peace.

I just know that the outcome is not up to me but to a Higher Power.

All things happen in Spirit's time.


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