Elizabeth A.S. Brooke

Crafting, traveling and everything in between.

We’re all in this boat together

Today is the second anniversary of PawPaw’s funeral. I read this quote at his funeral:

“I encourage the adult children to keep the big picture in mind: that these are the people on your boat; these are the people with whom you are granted the privilege of traveling across the ocean of life. All you have is each other. It is not just a burden but also a joy to help those we love. It is our chance to stay connected, to return love, and to grow ourselves. Of course there are times when helping is not convenient or easy. There are unpleasant and painful times. But few people regret their choice to help. We care for the old because it is good for them, and for us.”

It’s from Mary Pipher’s Another Country. I think it’s a beautiful sentiment about life, and something we should remember about our older folks as well as each other.

Birthdays and grief

Today would have been my grandfather’s 90th birthday. He died two years ago on Oct. 29.

Here’s a memory I shared on here a few years ago when Nannie and PawPaw still had chickens. At the time, PawPaw still recognized me. He could still walk, though his chickens seemed to be the only reason he’d get out of his chair in the morning and at night. I read the post a couple a weeks ago when I started to think of PawPaw’s upcoming birthday. It made me smile.

Recently, I’ve heard people expressing grief over loved ones who have died in the past year. I empathize.

Though I had been preparing myself mentally for my grandpa’s death for years, I didn’t expect the level of grief I experienced. I’ve had friends and family members die over the years, ever since I was 5, but this grief was something new and overwhelming.

The next several months were hard. I lost joy. I no longer enjoyed things I once loved — baking, knitting, sewing, hiking.

I was angry. I muttered under my breath at anyone in my path. No one could do anything right.

I cried. A lot. And at the drop of a hat. Anything that reminded me of PawPaw made me bawl.

For a long time, I talked about PawPaw to whomever would listen. I began to fear people would think I was crazy for going on and on about his death. So I tried to rein that in.

I let things go that weren’t necessary and began focusing on the things I had to do —school, paying bills. Everything else I let go. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. No socializing. No crafts or baking. I deleted my Twitter account and deactivated Facebook. I needed a break.

Christmas and Thanksgiving weren’t easy, either. I couldn’t bring myself to shop or wrap gifts. I couldn’t summon the motivation to do it. I didn’t want to deal with it. If I could have, I would have stayed at home under the covers until the new year.

It took several months — April, in fact — for me to feel happy again; for things to return to normal. I started reaching out to friends again. This past spring I reactivated Facebook and have slowly reconnected with people there.

I still think of PawPaw often, but now, instead of overwhelming sadness, I can smile at happier times.

A friend and my pastor recommended On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. I don’t think it helped. It was interesting, but it didn’t explain the emotions and pain I was going through. But maybe it’ll help you. Another friend recommended Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I didn’t read it. It didn’t seem relevant.

I can tell you, though, that no matter what you’re feeling now, it gets better. Friends told me it would. And it did. Embrace the process. Just go through it.

Maybe you feel guilty that you are hurting so much for this person’s death, but didn’t grieve the same for another. Don’t do that. Each death is different. We don’t know how we’re going to react until we go through it. It doesn’t mean you loved one person more than the other.

Talk about it. Even if you think you sound crazy. For me it was therapeutic. It helped me process the pain.

And when you start to feel joy again, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t mean you love your lost relative any less. It means you’re healing. You’ll always have the same amount of love and you’ll have the memories.

Grammie quotes

So, like usual after a night of meetings, I went to see my grandparents this morning.

Nannie talked about this newly deceased acquaintance and that one. She tempted me with her newest baked creation — a carrot cake, which I successfully defeated the urge to taste. Big bear hugs to PawPaw before and after he went up the hill to feed and water the chickens. And talks of other random topics: “How is so and so?” “PawPaw’s got an appointment this afternoon and Friday.”

You know, the usual.

But I truly love the nuggets of sayings that they share.

Like, this morning Nannie asked me, “Do you remember that little ol’ lady with the white hair that used to come to the beauty shop?”

Mmmm . . . yeah, well . . . there were lots of little ol’ ladies with white hair that came to the beauty shop. 🙂

The little lady she was referring to was the sister of one of the newly deceased acquaintances.

And PawPaw had me rolling. Usually, he ends the morning with, “Do one favor for me?” “What,” I most always ask, playing along. “Don’t take any wooden nickles.” And then he busts out laughing.

Today, he came back from the chickens without any eggs. Nannie asked if he got any because there weren’t any in the chicken bucket (an old ice cream bucket they fill up with scraps and throw out to the chickens and is used, usually, to carry eggs back with).

PawPaw had four in his flannel shirt pocket.

As he pulled the eggs out, he turned and told me, “These are cacklebury eggs.” Straight face and all. “What?” I ask. I’m really confused at what I thought I heard.

“These are cacklebury eggs. The hens cackle when they lay eggs,” he said and laughed. Nannie agreed and imitated how a chicken sounds when it’s laying eggs. She said the chickens seem to have it as bad as women do, but chickens have to lay eggs every day.

The things grandparents say.