Our lives rarely end with our physical presence. Aunt Edith died about 15 years ago, and she was fairly young — in her sixties. My Grandma, Aunt Edith’s Mother-in-Law, was in a nursing home, not doing her best — but OK for a 94-year-old. Grandma’s children decided it would be best not to tell her that her daughter-in-law passed on. “It would kill her,” they said.
Grandma’s heart had already been broken severely decades ago when she lost an 18-year-old Granddaughter to a car accident. Then, there was the daughter-in-law, just two years earlier. Her response to these deaths was always greeted with the same bitter, empty bewilderment.
There was a pronounced silence within her, and I can remember those times, that I spent at her house as a little girl while she grieved. Her kitchen was suddenly so quiet that the hum of the icebox seemed to echo, while she stared out the kitchen window at the woods, and her fields. Her small house suddenly felt like a giant, desolate Cathedral, that still managed to have a steady supply of Ritz Crackers for me to munch.
She would say, never tearfully, but almost like a condemnation, “Why didn’t God just take me instead? I’ve already lived my life… Why doesn’t he spare the young ones.” I think, for a time, she felt betrayed by a God that no longer seemed “just.” I had expected someone at this advanced age to not get caught off-guard. Still, God seemed to get her every time. Thinking back now, I think I shoulder ponder this as I begin to reach her age.
So, in the interest of Grandma’s heart, they didn’t tell her about Edith.
Soon, Grandma began to ask questions… “Why hasn’t Edith been in to see me?” Well, she’s not feeling well…. she’s been in the hospital, you know…” Grandma already knew the answer to her questions. Finally, she looked at one of her daughters square in the eye and said,
“Edith came to see me last night in my dream. She said, ‘I’m dead. I’m fine, and you need to stop worrying about me so I can move on.'”
So much for trying to fool Grandma.
I don’t know if Grandma was angry at her children for keeping her from grieving over Edith’s passing… if she resented not being able to cry at at her funeral, or to deny her that right to say to her son, “God should have just taken me instead.” Was she angry at her children for lying?
Grandma’s realization of the truth was something they all laughed about, as it was so typical of her to be “on the ball.” I think in her heart Grandma knew their intentions were good, and if she did hold a grudge in the beginning… it melted over time.
But I do know one thing… Edith couldn’t move on to wherever it was she needed to go, until Grandma let her go.