A month ago, I lost someone incredibly important to me. My go-go-granny unfortunately couldn’t go any longer. She lived a wonderful life and went peacefully with her family by her side. It’s all we could have asked for. She lived 97 great years. I want to take a moment not only to remember and celebrate her, but also to talk about the grieving process.
My family lost Marie Helena Wilke on December 31, 2014. A week before this, I was contemplating what to do for New Years Eve. My grandma was a pretty active lady up until the end. Besides simply being 97 years old, she was mostly with it and would still show you her little daily exercises. When I heard she went to the hospital, I didn’t think for a moment that this was it. My brother and I’s philosophy behind my grandma was always, “4 more years! 4 more years!” Sadly, it was more like 4 more days when we heard the news.
Fortunately, I haven’t lost a lot of those close to me. I’m incredibly grateful for this, but it’s interesting to see how I work in times like this. Those few days were filled with so many emotions about not only my grandma, but my mom and also feeling torn about what is ultimately best for someone. My friends were nothing, but supportive not only to my waistline, but for simply being there.
My grandma (G. Wilke, The G, Grandma Funk) did not only impact me, but a lot of my friends growing up. Everyone knew stories about my grandma whether they were of her singing and talking loudly in her apartment, telling us that the kids “danced like rubber balls” during a viewing of Teen Witch, the time she gave me $20 on Mother’s Day for not being a mother, or her wearing the same clothes as some of my friends (and don’t get me started on that time when both my grandma and I bought a drug-related shirt without knowing it was a drug-related shirt. I thought the mushroom was cute, she liked the turtle on it.).
Sounds silly, but death is hard. I’m thankful that we were with my grandma as she passed, holding her hand, telling stories of her life and how much she meant to us. Those few hours were intense to say the least. As the final moments were passing, the reality sunk in that my little grandma would no longer be part of my physical life, but would now become something even more. It’s only been a month, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.
Now on to the grieving, it is such a strange process. Of course there’s sadness, but there’s also so much confusion on how to feel. While I was home in Milwaukee after she passed, I was living in a bubble. I was staying at my parent’s house where I wasn’t dealing with the daily activity of life in Chicago. My roommates took care of my cats and my mom helped with my laundry. As much as I was there for my mom during those days of meeting with the funeral director, organizing lunches, etc., my mom was also there for me. I went home the day after the funeral and returned to the dead of winter missing my Chicago friends and lifestyle, but knowing that things are no longer the same. I didn’t know when I would break. Would I be sitting on the city bus and all of a sudden start crying? Possibly. Would I feel bad if I didn’t cry as much one day? Sure. Even though it has gotten easier, I almost feel guilty for moving on in some ways. I guess this is where that whole “gone, but not forgotten” thing comes into play. Now it just has to be practiced.
As my family closed out 2014 on a sad note, it was also uplifting as we know that my grandma is more than OK. She’s back with her husband (and she never had to wash anyone else’s shorts!) and most importantly at peace. Plus, my grandma knows that I really didn’t want to do anything on NYE anyway. She finally gave me a valid excuse. I feel we had a moment that night where she looked at me one last time and thought, “my little LeeAnn, if you’re going to cry a bucket of tears tonight anyway, it might as well be over someone you actually care about.” Boy, was she right. Now go hug your loved ones and take a moment to celebrate the ones who have passed. The softer side of Yops is out.