Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The knowing is the hardest part

It was a week and a half before Christmas and I arrived home from a work meeting just after 10 p.m. to find my husband loading the dishwasher and sobbing.

He had worked late too. My mother-in-law had been watching Graham when he arrived home a half hour before I did and relieved her. And what he saw made him cry.

"She didn't give Graham his bath, Kel," he told me. "And the place was a mess."

"Her stomach was bothering her again?"

He nodded.

"She probably just had an off night..."

"She raced out of here without even visiting with me. There were dishes everywhere. "

I remember murmuring that it had been a long day, that he was over-reacting. But my stomach sank because I knew without a shadow of a doubt then - just as I always knew despite my desperate attempt at bravado - why he was crying.

"Something's wrong Kel," he said. "I have a really bad feeling. Something is very, very wrong."

*******************************************************

Friday, the day after the funeral, Rob and I sat deflated after an endless whirl of activity.

"Remember that day when you came home and I was crying?"

I nodded.

"It was because I knew Kel. I just knew."

I burst into tears as his sobs started anew.

"I knew that night that nothing was ever going to be the same again."

*********************************************************

My mother-in-law died exactly three months to the day from that night and nothing is ever going to be the same again.

I received an e-mail today from a reporter for Grandparents magazine asking for a quote about what role grandparents play in the lives of parents and their children. She probably didn't expect a novel in reply, but timing is everything and that is exactly what she got.

Among other things I wrote:

"My mother-in-law died 9 days ago and I am still trying to imagine how I will parent without her. She truly was my son's second mother and I didn't resent it because it allowed me so much free time with my husband and so much comfort knowing I could meet work obligations and he would be in safe hands.

"You simply can't expect grandparents to be there for you when you need them without giving away a little bit of autonomy as far as parental influence goes: it's a trade off and for me it was an excellent one.

"The way she loved my son was a revelation to my husband and I. When he was about six months old I remember saying to him: 'She loves him as much as we do! I didn't think it was possible but she does, she loves him as much as we do!'"

She did love Graham as much as we do. And he loved her back. And he doesn't understand where she has gone.

And my heart breaks every day because I don't know how to make him understand that nothing will ever be the same again.

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44 comments:

Vered - MomGrind said...

I am so sorry, Kelly.

I lost my grandmother when I was much older - I was 12. I knew. But at Graham's age, I really don't know how he can grasp what has happened. Maybe it's best if he doesn't fully understand.

for a different kind of girl said...

So, so sorry. Reading this breaks my heart, especially the last sentence. I have parents and inlaws who are experiencing health challenges, and I dread the day my sons learn, really learn, this part of life. Prayers for you all.

flutter said...

you will never do it without her, her voice is everywhere. Now she can rest without pain, singing to you in the darkest of times

JCK said...

Kelly, I am so very sorry for the loss of your mother-n-law. I agree with the beautiful words Flutter wrote. She is still here, very much, in these stories you tell, in the tears...in the joyful remembrances. Yet, I know she is not.

Sending you hugs.

Mandy said...

I never really knew my grandparents, so no matter how hard it is now, Graham had a wonderful gift, albeit a brief one.

My heart is with you and your family.

Heather said...

i lost my beloved "Papa" on Thanksgiving in 2007. I still ache for him, and wish I could call him, talk to him, get his advice. My life is a little more dull without him.

I have been thinking about you guys. Lots of hugs and prayers. Don't hesitate to email if you need to vent, or let it out.

Laura said...

Sending lots of love, support and hugs.

Melisa with one S said...

Graham probably can't process this at his young age; all you can do is keep talking about her and how much she loved you all. As he does grow older and absorb that she's not physically coming back, it will be very clear to him that she will remain forever a lovely influence on your family. Sending hugs!

Kat said...

You are so blessed to have had that relationship with you mother-in-law. I think that you were wise to accept her love, because so many daughters-in-law push it away. They are intimidated by it. And what you gained from that is beyond measure.
But now that huge hole is there. And I am so sorry for your pain.

Continued prayers for you and your family.

InTheFastLane said...

Sometimes, I think grandparents are able to love their grandkids even MORE, if that is possible. I know the way my MIL is with my kids and I can't imagine life without her. I am sorry for your loss.

Lisa said...

I don't even know what to say besides I am so very sorry. Continuing to send prayers your way during this hard time.

Chantal said...

You were so lucky to have her. Graham may not understand but he will remember her love. Hugs.

Michelle said...

The knowing is a double-edged sword, isn't it? My heart goes out to you and your family. The thing is, and I know it doesn't seem like it, the pain of that knowing will fade (though there is probably some comfort in its immediacy right now). The knowing that will remain, the knowledge that Graham has, is the gift of her life to all of you. The wonderful person that she will always be in your hearts, your memories... She is the person who has helped shape you into the wonderful parent that you have become and one day the amazing grandmother I know you'll be.
I wish that there was more comfort in that right now, but the knowledge of her life will (and must) far overshadow the knowledge of her death. Because that is the gift she gave you all.
((HUGS))

kgirl said...

This part sucks, Kelly, it really does. Not much will make it better, not for a while. Sending peace.

A Crafty Mom said...

It's so hard, and it will take a lot of time. He'll get it. He'll survive, b/c he has loving, caring, and open parents to help him get through this.

Following this story has been very touching for me. My grandmother had the exact same type of cancer, exactly nine years ago. She was diagnosed in December, and also passed away in March. March 11, 2000. She was young (73) and I was very, very close to her. I still think about her every single day. Graham will too, and you will be able to ensure he remembers her exactly as he should.

Elaine A. said...

Wow, that's so powerful about how your husband knew things were just wrong. But I'm sure it was partly because you all were so close to her, which is wonderful.

I know this is a difficult time for you all, still praying for you.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I don't know how your husband is doing, but imagine the way you feel about Graham--and Graham knows it. Your husband just lost that person-his mother.

I remember the revelation when my mother died--there is nobody on Earth now that I am the most important person to. You are of course important to your spouse and your children, but it's different somehow.

It's hard to lose your mother.

Autumn said...

Oh Kelly, I know your pain. April 18th will mark one year since my step-mom passed away from melanoma. My son was five when his grandma died. Older than Graham but still at an age when death is hard to grasp. She wasn't a step-grandma to him, she was simply his grandma. There the moment he was born and they shared a very special bond. Now a year later he understands what it really means. Every once in a while he will crawl into my lap and say "I miss grandma Tammy". There isn't anything we can do to MAKE them understand. Time gives them the truth about death.
My advice would be to just be truthful when he asks questions,
even if the truth is painful.
My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

Rachel said...

We have just lost a grandparent and we have lost so many others over the last 4 years.

Your words are beautiful as is your spirit.
Your greatest tribute to her is the words and memories that you share with us and with your son.
You keep her alive and share her with the world.
Words from strangers can mean nothing and everything.
I have few to give but: Bless you, thank you and my heart and prayers stay with you and yours.
Hugs from waaay down South.

kbreints said...

This post made me cry. I shake with fear everytime I think about losing a parent. I am sorry that you have had to go through this.

You are blessed with a wonderful angel and I am sure that she is continuing to take care of you.

((hugs))

Eva Robertson said...

Oh, so sorry! My prayers go out to you. May this day be far away for us. I have a MIL who is a mother to our son and I have felt exactly like you about having her in our lives.

caramama said...

I am so sorry, Kelly. I am sending you all my sympathy and hugs. It just won't be the same, but somehow you will all go on eventually, better for having known her love.

Pregnantly Plump said...

I am so sorry. This has to be such a hard time. It sounds like she was an amazing and wonderful mother, mother in law and grandmother.

Aunt Becky said...

I'm just so sorry. I ache for all of you.

Young Momma said...

I'm so sorry. :( There are no words, and I hope all of you will find a comfort of some sort as soon as possible. I am so sorry.

Kelly said...

This seriously breaks my heart. It's hard to make children understand something that we don't understand ourselves. I can't tell you why there can be such joy (in our children), yet such pain in life. Tragic things happen far too often and I wonder almost daily, why. Why do these things happen? Why do they happen to the most wonderful people and families? I don't understand.

Magpie said...

Oh man, this makes me weep. It's a really lovely post - about her, about people, about relationships, about grandparents.

I thank you for writing it - I hope that you all are healing.

Karen MEG said...

This is just heartbreaking.

You know Kelly, the wonderful thing is that Graham was able to spend so much time, quality time, and he is old enough that he WILL have memories of his beloved grandma. Nothing will ever be the same again, but nothing can take those memories that Graham has, nothing.

This is what keeps me going, and makes it easier when little G asks about her Granddad, and gets sad when she realizes he can no longer play with her. To be honest, I really don't know how my boy is handling it, as he's withdrawn a bit, and I don't know if it's just a phase, or whether it is indeed related. We're just taking it day by day...

((Hugs))

common mom said...

I am so sorry Kelly. And especially sorry for Graham - it's so tough to explain to the little ones. When MY grandfather passed away, I explained to my kids that MY grandfather died and they were HYSTERICAL . . . they thought it was my father. They were 4 and 6. It's amazing how much of a role grandparents play in our kids' lives. I can't begin to imagine the pain and loss we will feel the day one of their 6 grandparents passes.

Hugs to you and your family.

Jaina said...

I'm so sorry Kelly. I don't know what to say other than to send love, hugs and prayers your way.

Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog said...

No words other than you have my love. I can't imagine how hard this is for you all...

Kelli @ writing the waves said...

My heart just breaks for you guys. It's so hard for the little ones too. I wish I had more comforting words to give. She sounds like she was a wonderful grandmother.

Heather said...

I dread the day that I will have to see my kids learn about death so intimately.

Nadine said...

Hang in there Kel. Most people don't feel this way about their MILs -- you were lucky to have her.

Laski said...

She's with you . . . with him. She's everywhere. Grandmas are so cool like that.

And this . . .

"She loves him as much as we do! I didn't think it was possible but she does, she loves him as much as we do!'"

This is why . . .

Melissa said...

No words of wisdom just a soft (((hug))) and some understanding shooting your way!

OHmommy said...

Wow. I can only imagine how difficult these last couple of months have been.

xoxo

raino said...

so very well said. i never understood the relationship between a child and grandparent as i had none - they were all dead before i was born. but now, my daughters have my dad and that's it. it's incredible, even unexplainable that relationship. blows me away almost everyday when he calls them or they call him up just to chat. sorry for your loss.

Beck said...

Kelly, this has been such an awful time for you. I hope that time will bring you peace and happy memories.

MadWoman said...

I'm really sorry to hear about your loss. It sounds like she had a profound effect on many lives and will be greatly missed.

((HUGS))

Parent Club said...

I hate to read without leaving a comment....but I have no words.

Am thinking of you.

Maggie, Dammit said...

I am so sorry for your loss. You're in my prayers.

wheelsonthebus said...

i am very sorry for your loss.

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