…that age where your grandparents are old. Really old. I’m 28, so my grandparents are in their late 80s and early 90s. They have ailments. They move more slowly. They do fewer things. And then, the inevitable happens. They get a disease – for some, it’s cancer. For others, like my dad’s mom, it’s Alzheimer’s. They deteriorate. They lose parts of themselves. In an Alzheimer’s case, they can become someone totally different than the person you knew.
In the span of 11 months, I’ve lost two grandparents. My mom’s father passed last November, completely unexpectedly. I don’t know whether that’s better or worse than the months or years of deterioration that can prepare your heart and your head for the end result. In a way, it’s merciful. There’s little suffering, few tears cried on the front side, and less burden of who will take care of the person or where they will live when they need around-the-clock care, and (yes it’s cold, but a very real problem) who will pay for it. But on the other hand, he was way too young, too healthy, too close to us to say goodbye right then. And the fact that he was visiting me in North Carolina at the time instead of home in Georgia when he passed? That was brutal.
My dad’s mom, on the other hand, passed away on Thursday after almost ten years of physical and mental degeneration. Before that, she had showed signs of Alzheimer’s and we knew it ran in her family, but the passing of her husband in 2005 just unhinged her. Her doctor has been saying for several years that it could be days, or months, or years; we wouldn’t know. But what we did know was that her essence has been gone for a while. She hasn’t recognized me any of the last six times I’ve seen her, until I introduce myself. She thought my brother was my dad, thought my dad was her husband, and never even met my 8 month old son.
In spite of the past 11 months, I’m glad that I had so much time with all four of my grandparents. I even knew two (well, technically three, but only barely) of my great-grandparents. I’m luckier than many. But it also disillusioned me – those people are supposed to be there to witness my entire life, not just part of it, right? They’re supposed to see graduations and weddings and births and my kids’ milestones as well!
And there’s where I get happy. My grandparents are seeing those things. They’re seeing my kids, all day every day. They’re watching from Heaven, where they are way happier and whole and healthy. New bodies, new minds, and in a paradise better than any place on earth.