Sunday, June 13, 2010

Experiencing Loss

I haven't written about this before because it's very personal to me and because I'm not entirely sure how to go about adequately expressing my feelings.  I've eluded to it over the last few months, but never come right out and said what was on my mind.  It's hard, sometimes, to say the things I'm feeling but right now, I need to.  Tomorrow Matt and I head to north-west Texas to see my family.  My parents are out from California to see my grandparents who live in Plainview, which is about 5.5 hours from here.  We'll be gone from Monday afternoon until Tuesday night, and while right now there aren't many things more important than going to visit, there are also few things more difficult.

My last living grandparent, my mom's mother, is dying of cancer.  She has stage 4 ovarian cancer, has had a lot of surgeries over the last few years, has come back from the brink of death on several occasions and has taken her fair share of chemo, but now there's nothing more.  There's just the attempt to make her comfortable, she can't take any more chemo because the chemo was killing her as surely as the cancer.  Just this last week they contacted home hospice, who put her on morphine drops for the pain and installed a gel-insert over her mattress because she's almost completely bed ridden now.

I haven't experienced a lot of loss in my life.  I've been lucky to live nearly 32 years without losing many people that I love.  Though my grandma Wilma is my last living grandparent, I wasn't close enough to the others for their death's to touch me in any significant way.  My father's mother died of breast and brain cancer when he was a teen, some ten years before I was born.  His father died when I was 20 years old, but we weren't close because he'd never loved me and had no compunction about allowing me to understand that fact.  My mom's father was killed when I was 15 years old but we weren't close for a lot of reasons.  In all cases it hurt because my parents were hurting, with the single exception of my father's mother who I never knew, though it hurts to know my father had to endure the loss of a parent when he was only a child.  Still, none of it really affected me beyond the difficulty of seeing people I love hurting.

The first time I felt any real loss at the death of someone important to me was when my ex-husband's great grandmother died.  I was 18 years old and I had loved her, she was an amazing lady and her loss was hard for me.  At that point, I think it was more the lack of experience with death than anything else.  The only other time I've experienced a true loss was when Matt's grandfather died in 2002.  He was the most amazing person, a really warm and giving man who had suffered during his lifetime the loss of not only his wife, but his only child.

Matt's the opposite, he's experienced more than his fair share of loss.  In 1998 he lost his mother, all of grandparents have passed, and he's lost a lot of friends to both violence and sickness.  He knows what it feels like to really grieve, he has the unfortunate experience of feeling deeply the loss, and over the last few months, every time my grandmother comes up, he's given me a look of such sorrow.  He knows loss, he also knows that for the most part I don't, and I can see in his eyes the desire to spare me hurt and the helplessness knowing he can't.

But this, this is not any of those situations where loss has occurred external to me.  This affects me and for one of the very few times in my life I know I won't only have to grieve the pain of others, but my own, as well.  As the first grandchild on my mother's side, my grandmother has always been great with me.  When I was two years old she moved to Texas to be closer to her parents and every year of my childhood my family took a vacation to Texas to see my grandma.  Years later, when I learned to read and write, she and I would write letters back and forth, which is significant because I couldn't even read or write until I was in the 5th grade.  Writing back and forth with my grandma was my first significant writing experience. Regrettably, I don't have any of those letters anymore; when I was a little girl it never occurred to me that someday I would cherish them.

There have been a lot of those experiences over the years, and now that I'm older, I appreciate every one of those moments.  What I regret most of all is that over the last few year I haven't been able to see her as often as I'd have liked.  Though we only live 5.5 hours away the distance has been insurmountable at times.  Finances and school obligations have always stood between us and that 5.5 hour drive.  Now, I wish we'd made more time or found more money because soon, we won't have that opportunity anymore.

It's going to be hard to see her bedridden.  Last time I saw her, only a few months ago, she looked different, but she still looked like my grandma.  She has been through a lot over the last few years, wasn't well even then, but still made time to make me a pumpkin pie because she knows it's my favorite.  She gave me a beautiful quilt she made with her mother from tiles that had been her grandmothers and it's something I will cherish always.  In the last few months her condition has deteriorated and the worse she gets the more my heart hurts at the prospect of losing my grandma.

We'll only be there over night, gone only a day and a half, because again life has cropped up and gotten in the way.  Things don't slow down because we're losing those we love, a regrettable fact of life.  I know when she dies it's going to hurt, I already hurt and she's still here, but for now I'm trying to focus on getting up there to see her again and support my mother because as much as I'm hurting, I know she must be hurting more.  I wish these things weren't so hard, I'm terrible at hurting and seeing those I love hurt. I don't want to lose my grandma, but I don't want her to suffer, either.

I'm sure when I get back I'll have more to say, but for now I have laundry to do before we can leave tomorrow.