Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Running and Grief

Late in the week leading up to the Fort Lauderdale half Matt and I ran, my grandma was moved into hospice. She'd been sick for awhile but had just recently discontinued treatment. I had seen her just the previous weekend with my mom and brother. My uncle told my mom, who told us, that she probably wouldn't last through Monday.

It wasn't a surprise. She'd been battling illness and age; I had made that trip up to see her knowing it would probably be the last time.

None of that made it any easier.

I ran with my phone on Do Not Disturb, aware I might get a text from my mom mid-race and wanting to avoid that possibility. I debated writing her name on my arm for the race, but chose not to. She surfaced in my mind around mile 4, randomly and without any conscious thought or meaning attached. Just Grandma, Grandma, think of Grandma.

As it was, that text I was dreading but kind of expected came about thirty minutes after we finished. Grandma passed right around the time Matt and I crossed the finish line.

She was 90. She was a veteran who died Veterans Day weekend, and for some reason I just keep thinking about that.
Despite having a chance to see her recently, and despite having fair warning, this is still hard.

Death is hard on the living.

Matt and I fly out for her funeral this week. I am not someone who can run while grieving. My grief manifests as numbness punctuated by moments of uncontrollable weeping. Neither of those states is conducive to running. My mind and body want to remain shut down; running makes me feel vulnerable. It brings emotions to the surface. I tend to feel emotionally swamped when I run while sad.
Grandma and her six kids. I love this photo for many reasons, but especially because my mom looks exactly like I did at that age.
Grandma, Grandpa, the six kids + my dad
So, I canceled my runs last week. I took a full week off. I went through the motions of work. I depended on my friends and Matt to get me through, and they really did. I took four days for bereavement this week, and then we have a week for Thanksgiving, and by the time I'm back at work I hope I'll feel a little more with it.

My grandma and I didn't see eye-to-eye on some things, but I know she loved me. I really believe she waited to let go until after she'd seen all her people one last time, and that's why she declined so quickly after our visit. I have photos and heirlooms and recipes and a million warm memories to remember her by.
At my bat mitzvah in 1999.
The first time she met Matt, after we got engaged.
Sometimes it's the littlest things, too. Like, she taught me how to turn a shirt right-side-out when folding laundry in one quick flip to save time. She wasn't Jewish, but she remembered to send me flowers every Passover for our seder. She and grandpa would call and sing happy birthday every year, finishing the song with their own special flair (and am I glad I saved those last couple voicemails or what?!). She always kept M&Ms in a crystal bowl, which absolutely made them taste better. She was a nurse and worked with my grandpa, who was a dentist, and when I was a kid and she let me name the teddy bear young patients held for comfort during cleanings. I still have him today.
As a kid, I loved miniatures and coveted a little ceramic ring box she had. Apparently I asked her once, "Grandma, when you pass, can I have that?" I don't remember this story, but she told it to me the day before my wedding, when she gave me that box and the ring inside, along with a handkerchief I wore in my bodice as my "something old."
My wedding was the last time they visited us in Florida.
Grandma didn't "get" the whole running thing, but she always asked about my races when we talked. She didn't get it, like she probably didn't get a lot of things about me and my generation in general, but she loved me, and she was interested in what made me happy. She only ever wanted me to be happy.

I was lucky to have her for as long as I did, and lucky to have a grandma so full of genuine love.
Nothing about death is easy, but I am taking comfort in the fact that, even if we didn't feel ready to lose her, she was ready to go. I know that now her pain has ended and her legacy will live on.


No comments:

Post a Comment