On the evening celebrating my 27th birthday, just as my friends arrived, I received a call from my father that I needed to fly home immediately. My grandmother had a fall and was in the hospital. There was nothing the doctors could do for her, she was unconscious and probably not going to wake up, but I should see her one last time before the inevitable.
I’m not sure if we ever get better equipped at dealing with death. Does it become easier as more and more of our loved ones leave us? Is “easier” the right word when we’re simply numb to the pain?
I’ve always been slow to process my emotions. Compartmentalising always came so naturally to me. I found myself dissecting the situation like an unfeeling robot, and drew the unpleasant conclusion that death may in fact be a relief for her, and the rest of us.
She was 93 and had been suffering from dementia for the past few years, her condition worsening as time went on. More recently she would call me by my cousin’s name when I came to visit. With the exception of my mother who undoubtedly loved her the most, her four living sons have spent the past decade pawning off the responsibility of taking care of her, passing her around each family in rotation so they could split the burden as much as possible, in a manner deemed tolerable to their wives.
Maybe death is harder for our atheistic generation, when we all “know” that nothing happens after. Although the older I get the harder it is to be dismissive of religion entirely. I simply know of too many individuals far more intelligent than I will ever be who have found ways to maintain faith despite evidence to the contrary, that I can’t help wonder, and however reluctantly, begrudgingly, submit to such possibilities, because to claim otherwise would be unbearably arrogant.
In the final days we took turns holding her hand, my mother calling for her with a desperation that weighed heavily on us all. We did our best to remind her she was loved, and would be dearly missed. It’s strange how death can bring people together, how goodness can sometimes be found in the middle of hell.