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Losing Grandma by Teddi Rene'

 As I sat and watched the snow begin to fall harder and stick more consistently,  a calm covered me. It wasn’t because I thought she would wake up or that she would be okay. It was because I knew it would soon be over; that we could all soon move out of limbo, waiting and watching this woman that meant so much to us, in pain and suffering. We all felt it because we all begin to simultaneously shift and move about the room. Gathering our things, we moved in silence, never taking our eyes off of her. As I looked at my mother’s face, desperately trying to burn her image in my mind, I began to think about all of the things that she would miss. All the milestones she wouldn’t witness. All the pictures she would never see or be in.

The previous day, we had an impromptu birthday party in her room complete with a cake and balloons, for my daughters 1st birthday which was 6 days away. It was important to her that she got to sing “Happy Birthday” to Billie. We knew my mother was not going to make it. I refused to cancel the party scheduled for 5 days from then at my mothers' house in the space that she spent many of her final days. “Life goes on,” I thought even though I wasn’t yet sure what that life would look like. It saddened me to know that my mother would miss out on doing the one thing that she cherished the most, being grandma. The way she loved Xavier was evident from birth and I was deeply concerned for my son. He would surely miss her and how she would sneak sweets to him after I vehemently told her not to. He would miss the inside jokes they shared, their love for inappropriate iPad games like “Plumber’s Crack” and just how she loved on him every chance she could. Damn, how is Xavier going to cope without hearing her say “ Hey Grandson! How was school?” As he entered the house daily? How would he deal with losing his best friend?

 It was unfair how she spent all of those years dedicated to young girls and showing them the sport she grew to love but would never get to see her own granddaughter on a mat. The one Christmas Billie ever experienced up til that point, she would never remember. How I would preserve the memory of my mother in the heart and mind of my daughter was a great concern. Will she remember her? Will she know who we come from? Will she know how much she was loved by her?

My heart cried for my children and the fact that they would never have that bond with their grandmother. Being raised mainly by my grandmother, the bond between grandparent and grandchildren is one that is so special to me and it was to my mother as well. In my own personal reflection on the relationship I had with my mother, I often found myself wrapped in an emotional cocoon torn between the thought that she was taken and that she gave up and left willingly. For years after she passed, I would go from being sad that she didn’t get to see Xavier make his first run to home base then quickly transition to being hurt that we weren’t worth her fighting harder for. Anger would soon consume me as I thought about how Billie would never hear her grandma scream her name from the audience as she did a final curtsy as the curtain closes on her first dance recital. Fear often visited me when another bill came because I just did not know how much it would be or if this was the one that would send up to the poor house. Life was a mess and I wasn’t sure if I was happy or sad, hurt or angry, resentful or relieved that my mother, my children’s grandmother, was gone.

How did I feel when I lost my mother? Initially, I didn’t. If I’m being honest, I am just now, 3.5 years later, beginning to grieve the loss of my mother. Until now, I have only dealt with grieving the loss of my children’s grandmother and here is what I’ve learned:

A grandparent is not a person, but a role that one takes on. I am grateful that my family stepped up in her absence and has been very active in helping with the kids. Not just watching them but truly encouraging them. They show up for their football and baseball games and scream louder from the audience than my mom probably ever could. (Actually, that's a lie. My momma had a mouth on her and would still put the other 20 of us to shame.)
Children express grief and pain in some of the most conflicting ways. It is best to just support them and get them professional help so that they can grieve and process their lost properly. Poor behavior is not always a symptom of poor listening skills or a “bad kid”. Sometimes, quite often actually, its a symptom of drastic change, pain, and avoid they do not yet know how to express.
No matter how brief the interaction or at what age, the memory of loved ones remain with children without a doubt. My daughter often speaks other grandmother and reminds me that she died but she loved us so much. Money Bags would be so proud of her Chocolate Mama.
Although we want to protect our children and shield them from hurt, we have to allow them to experience things that we can not control and we have to allow these to experience it without fear. Our fear as adults, not theirs as a kid.
No matter how long you put off grief, it will be there waiting for you. Period.

If I remember vividly, one night I heard her in pain and went to check on her only to hear her cry out the words “ I want to go with my daddy and grandma”. This cry of defeat is the last image of my mother and is etched In my mind.

With my coat and purse in hand, I say my final goodbye. Standing there in front of her, holding her hand and telling her that I loved her, try as I might, I could not carve this current moment into my mind to replace the moment she admitted defeat. While it took me some time to accept this, the moments that I create with my children daily are what I choose to focus on to manage the guilt I feel for holding on to what I perceive to be the “wrong” memory. Now, that my sister has birthed our mother’s 3rd grandchild, I often find myself thinking about how my sister must have felt not having my mother around for her pregnancy, labor and the first year. My niece will never have the opportunity to make memories with my mother.  Knowing this selfishly allows me to be joyful in what my children and I did have during her time Earth-side. Not because I don't want my niece to know my mother, but because I am grateful for what my children at least have some interaction.
Now that I’ve conquered Losing Grandma, its time to work on me.

How do I cope with Losing Mama?

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