There's an account I follow on Instagram called @theydidntdie – it's a collection of obituary clippings showing all the creative ways bereaved family members announce the departure of their beloved. They didn't die—they left this world, they walked on, they passed. I like the account because it's soft and sweet, and a poignant reminder of how creative and funny we can be when we're pushed to announce the passing of someone we knew and loved. I've never thought much about what goes into obituary-writing, but I understand now why writing "died" just feels so flippant and final – because surely there's a better way.
So the irony is mine now, as I sit here trying to come up with an appropriate euphemism, because I'm desperate to not use the word "died" myself.
It comes right down to that, though. My dear grandmother died last night. At ninety years old and seven months to the day, that sweet, frail woman let go; and good for her, I think, because she wasn't comfortable. Her life, her mind and her body were failing her. It was time. It was okay.
But it feels wretched. Death, after all, disrupts the living. ("Well, no shit," sayeth the newly departed.) It's inconvenient. It's uncomfortable. It's a gross tearing away of what was, perhaps, the best thing that'd ever happened to us—the living bit, I mean—the dreaming and the swearing and the cheesecake-eating.
So don't do this to me, I think; don't make me go through this. Not the grief, not the quiet absence. I'm in no mood for any of it. Yesterday, she was here. I was fine. Today she's gone, and I'm not comfortable with that. It feels bad, frankly.
But life soldiers on; the sun rose this morning without her, and it'll set again tonight. And I think to myself, what are we to do with the time we have left? What do we make of our days? Seize them, we're urged – spend each one as though it's our last, tell each of the people we love that we do—that oh, we love them so. So we do. But try as we might, we can't keep up with that pulsing intensity. (And we shouldn't.) Autopilot settles in. We relax our muscles and our hearts, and we let things ride for a while. And it's good. But the world keeps turning; the clocks tick, the earth rotates, the sun sets. None of it gives two shits about any of the goings-on down here on the ground—and why should it? We're specks of dust, after all.
...Except we aren't. We're blood pumping and muscles flexing and lungs expanding. We're bodies writhing, we're loving living and desire beating. We're tears flowing, we're fingernails clawing and heads banging. We're giggles and heartache, sighs of boredom and sighs of relief. We're inspiring and we're inspired, we're loving and we're loved. We're everything and we're nothing, bundled up as skin, sinew and bone.
I'm thankful I had the chance to say goodbye. I haven't been home to see her in five years, and that guts me, but we talked twice over FaceTime this past week. I told her how much I love her, how lovely she is and how dearly I miss her, and I got to hear her tell me the same.
I'm thankful for this encounter; that my dear grandma got to meet her sweet great-grandbaby. I get lost in looking at their hands.
I'm thankful for life; for hers, which afforded me mine. Patricia Andow Warren – without her, there would be no me; and without me, no child of mine.
Goodbye, Patricia. You were loved on earth, and you're loved beyond.