I haven’t posted for a really long while, I know. I’ve had a really rough start to the year and it’s not getting any better.
Just after New Year’s, my Grandad died, very suddenly. It came as a massive shock to the whole family and, as I’m sure you can imagine, the week since then has passed in a haze of grief and fuzzy-headed pragmatism as we try to sort everything out
Much of the last week was spent trying to sort through the belongings in Grandad’s house and dispose of all the things nobody wants to keep. It’s a strange experience – it feels sort of like looting, but with half the time being spent on re-living memories. I’ve seen my aunt, uncle and one of my cousins more in the last week than in the last two years or more, which has been nice, although somewhat bittersweet.
But there’s an aspect of all this for which I was completely unprepared. The more belongings we’ve found and the more people we’ve spoken to as we pass on the news of Grandad’s death, the more I realise I didn’t really know my Grandfather at all, and it breaks my heart more than I can communicate here. There are things he has kept that showed a sentimental side I never knew he had. He was a proud man who didn’t like to let people in too far, so finding that he’d kept a big pile of birthday and Christmas cards was a surprise, as was the discovery of all our wedding invitations to him. Then there are the sad truths – how much he was struggling to cope on his own, at 89 years old. How bad his memory had become.
The biggest surprise was the secrets about him. Secrets I am neither willing nor in a position to reveal here but things that haven shaken me to my core, things that have, whether or not they should, completely changed my memories of him, at least while I come to terms with those things.
It has been an incredibly tough week, and with over a week to go until the funeral, I’m not sure if it will get any easier but there’s an important lesson or two to take away from the experience. Tears are like milk – if you hold onto them too long they turn sour. You feel better by letting yourself feel what you feel, when you feel it. Holding back can lead to other extremes, like anger or bitterness. I’ve learned that holding on to random, pointless crap for no real reason just gives your ancestors more to clean out when your time comes. If you don’t love it, if it doesn’t work, if you have no real use for it, then throw it out. And lastly, really take the time to get to know your loved ones. Ask them questions about their life. Share opinions, beliefs, memories, and desires, because you might never know them well enough to avoid any nasty surprises later, but it’s easier to deal with the nasty stuff if you have a lifetime of good memories to offset them.
And on that note, I promise to try to post something more positive next time!