Two Funerals

Two messages and many more questions

We had two deaths in our family this year. At the beginning of the year, my grandmother Helena died, and now my aunt Vida, Helena’s daughter, passed away too.

My grandmother was 100 when she died. She had a beautiful death — she died peacefully at home in her sleep. Obviously, my aunt, my grandmother’s daughter, didn’t manage to live that long, since she passed only a couple of months later.

My aunt spent the last years of her life as my grandmother’s full-time caretaker. She took her into her home so that my grandmother wouldn’t have to stay in a nursing home.

24/7 care for a family member can take its toll on the health of a caregiver. According to most reports, it can shorten one’s lifespan for up to 10 years, and according to only one other (Johns Hopkins, 2013), it can increase it. In the case of my aunt, her lifespan certainly wasn’t increased.

It’s not uncommon for caregivers to neglect their health while taking care of a family member. My aunt had cancer, and no one had noticed it until it was too late. She attributed not feeling well and the lack of appetite to being tired and overworked. Full-time caretaking is incredibly demanding and stressful — not feeling too well is a normal part of the experience.

But that’s not what I wanted to focus on in this post. Nor did I want to focus on the fact that a vast majority of caregivers who end up taking care of their parents are daughters and not sons, even though that’s interesting.

What I wanted to focus on are the messages I received from both my grandmother and aunt after they died. This had happened to me before with most of the people and animals who were close to me in life.

My grandmother, however, was the first to send me the messages while I was fully awake. Or perhaps that was the first time I was able to get the message while fully awake.

I could ‘hear’ her voice saying: ‘Oh, Mateja, if I only knew how wonderful it is here, I’d have left much sooner.’ For my grandmother, reaching her 100th birthday and beating both of her sisters at longevity was the goal that had sustained her. After that, it seemed that life lost its meaning and became a drag.

My aunt came to me in a dream last night. Finally, for I thought she never would, but then I had a pretty bad allergic reaction to a nasty bee sting and was thus less perceptive as my body fought with the venom. Now my foot is fine, I feel fine, and she was able to come through in a dream.

In the dream, she was celebrating her birthday. She looked great and was all laughter and smiles. I brought her a gift, and she said ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have brought me anything, for you are broke and should not go into any expenses.’ I’m glad to have seen how great she looks. It gives me a sense of peace and gladness.

The one who took care of my aunt while she became more and more fragile due to cancer was her younger daughter, my cousin. The whole thing was very hard on her. But my aunt didn’t have a goal of wanting to live up to 100. Perhaps watching my grandmother and seeing how unfulfilling such goals can be contributed to this. Or perhaps she just didn’t want to be a burden to her daughter.

There’s got to be a deeper meaning to life, but what is it and who sets it? Every death we encounter is an opportunity to ask what would be the best way to spend my life. What should my goals be? Why am I here?

And perhaps most importantly — what is the nature of this reality?

How often do you ask yourself this, in my view, one of the most important questions of them all — what is the true nature of this reality? How could you know how to live and what’s the meaning of this if you do not know the answer to this question?

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Mateja started to write short stories at the age of ten and later became a freelance writer, radio personality, and explorer of the inner worlds. Her life resembles a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs and some pretty wild turns. Among other things, her car was destroyed by tanks, and she survived several brushes with death. She graduated in psychology from Arizona State University and is deep into the weird. Connect with Mateja on LinkedIn.