“Goodbye always makes my throat hurt.”
– Charlie Brown
Two people sat on the edge of a quiet lake, listening to the gentle lapping at the sandy shore, sharing their thoughts about death and loss.
“The hardest goodbye is the one that’s stolen from you,” the first person said, “when death is abrupt and unexpected, when a brilliant life is cut short before its time and every future conversation and experience destined with that person is extinguished like water thrown on the fire, how can you move forward? Living without closure is a pain that knocks on your heart, a sharp reminder something precious was stolen from you.”
A fair point but the other person disagreed. “The hardest goodbye is the one shared with someone you’ve spent the most time. The unbearable pain of losing someone woven into the tapestry of who you are is a lingering agony that reminds you with each breath a part of you is missing. When you’ve become accustomed to the comfort of their grace in your life, the loss is a physical thing that drags on your soul.”
After a long moment of heavy silence, each concluded, both were right.
Goodbyes — whether sudden or expected— tear at the fabric of our wellbeing, upending our carefully tended lives, and laying bare our souls to the rending of unrelenting grief.
Yesterday, I said goodbye to my maternal grandmother.
The health of this once spry and feisty woman has declined rapidly. When the family decided hospice care was best, my sister and I made the trek home for one final visit.
I brought beautiful flowers; my sister painted her toes in sparkly purple.
Over the next couple of days, family members will cycle through the house, saying their personal goodbyes to that incredible lady.
Even as I type, tears choke my throat. I cannot fathom what life will be like on the other side of her absence.
I am the oldest grandchild on each side of my family. I was blessed with the most time with both women. Their influences on who I am are stamped with magical ink on my soul. My grandmothers fostered my love for books.
When I was young, my maternal grandmother would read to me with different character voices, revealing a silly side that she kept mostly private.
I could fill pages with treasured memories but I only have so much space.
Mercurial and complex, my grandmother embodied strength in the face of any challenge.
She had a sharp temper when crossed but when needed, quiet wisdom.
Even as a love of literature bonded us, words taste hollow in this moment.
In all ways, I adored her.
With love, grief is never a shallow puddle; it is the fathomless lake.
And I am sitting at its shore.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.