Reflecting on Life and Loss

Thoughts After My Grandmothers Passing

We are all victims of our own reality.

That is the thought that repeats in my head. While all deaths tend to cause some amount of self-reflection, it takes a different turn for my grandmother.

When capturing the essence of the one who passed, we tend to look only at the positive, pass over the negative, and move on. In this situation I feel like that does no one any favors. There are lessons to be learned for the living. Also, the true relief is knowing she is free from the burdens of life, be it real, imagined, or created through a self fulfilling prophecy.

The same was also true for her son when he passed away from his fight with cancer, my uncle Doug. They were close, and he took care of her up until his death. He was a brilliant man. A unique man. A difficult man. During many family functions he would set himself away from the rest of the family, and I would find him and talk to him. To me, he was endlessly interesting. We shared the same thirst for knowledge. While small talk was going on in the other room, we would talk about philosophy, books, astronomy, and his latest obsessions. He borrowed me the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, among others. I respected him, his intellect, and his passions.

Both my grandma and uncle were hard not to like when they were warm, and caring. To many, though, those moments could be few. Despite all their gifts and abilities, they frequently could turn friends and allies into enemies. I remember on my 16th birthday, our family party erupted into a fierce argument about politics what caused both my grandma and uncle to no longer be on speaking terms with the rest of the family. I called them to try to reconcile, and I believe my mother did too. In response, they blocked our phone number. In a world where they didn’t have many allies we became the enemy, and for not much of a reason at all.

I can’t remember how long this period lasted, but I do remember how it ended. On a whim, I bought a Christmas present for them and I delivered it in person to their house. I knocked on the door. They didn’t answer. I saw the cars were home. I walked around the house, looking in every window, and eventually they opened the door, stunned at not only my appearance, but persistence. There was no look of anger. I greeted them warmly, and presented the gift. I made pleasant small talk, and eventually they invited me inside and we talked for maybe a half hour, and I left. They were welcomed back with the rest of the family, and we later found out my uncle was struggling with alcoholism, what to his credit he fought and seemed to control it without fail until the end to the best of my knowledge.

After my uncles passing, my grandma lived on her own. There were times when she seemed to question the unconditional love her family showed for her, for example asking if she was invited over for family gatherings. She disliked the hospital, and doctors as she always felt mistreated. She’d even get angry at a restaurant for giving her too much food. I don’t think she was intentionally a difficult person. When you saw these moments, you could tell she honestly felt that she was wronged in some way.

We are all victims of our own reality.

I’ve tried to keep that in mind with my own conflicts. We all need to remind ourselves that our own internal narrative can be wrong. Odds are it will be wrong at some point. We all have our issues we wrestle with, and no matter the size, it’s up to ourselves to correct, or mitigate them. Otherwise we may face a reality that is unkind. An unrelenting reality who will only stop victimizing us when our ride is over. At the end, hopefully we can be content.

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