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In January it will be a year since my grandmother has died. In some ways she died in October 2006 when her grasp on sanity started to slip and the person whom I thought of as my grandmother - that sharp-minded woman - just began vanishing, her mind taking more frequent and longer unsupervised jaunts. In some ways this was distressing - as when she began to relive the deaths of her children all over again, and would walk around the house demanding to be taken to them and not believing us when we told her they were buried. But in many other ways it was a pleasant change. She had by then outlived all her family and her friends, so for the first time in a decade she had a rich and fulfilling social life again.

The last time I saw her was in July 2007. She was very far gone. I spent a lot of time pretending I was different dead people and patting invisible dogs. I also spent a lot of time reassuring her that I hadn't given birth to the baby and left it unsupervised somewhere. On the last evening we spent together we sat snuggling on the couch, listening to records of Gipsy songs and I mourned the woman I was losing, and the one I had lost and all the stories she could no longer tell.

My grandmother had a long and fractious relationship with death. She had tried to kill herself for real in her late thirties after her son had died and her hair turned white overnight. Someone had always managed to rescue her though, and I guess at one point she decided a la Dorothy Parker that she might as well live. But never being one to waste a good manipulation tactic she started predicting her imminent demise when she turned 60 (usually on the basis that she had dreamt of some deceased friend or relative who had come 'to take her away' or inform her that 'it wouldn't be long now'). I remember when I moved to England (she was in her 80s) she began every letter she sent me with 'This will surely be the last letter you receive from me, because soon I will be dead'.

Ironically the woman who cried death outlived everybody (including her remaining child) and was so ridiculously, robustly healthy that in a way I thought she would never die. For all her assurances that old age was hell and that nobody needed her and that death would be a pleasant change she still clung to life with a mix of stubborness and spite and tenacity.

Until she turned 99 and began to get lonely and tired and spent a lot of time looking at photos and staring into space in a heartbreaking way.

Her birthday, last year's October was her last lucid day on Earth. She got a phonecall from the President congratulating her on turning 100, and flowers, and a newspaper crew who came to interview her and everybody made a great fuss. She was delighted, and after that she more or less simply faded away. Spent most of her time sleeping, biding her time. She perked up to hear the baby was born and then a week later she passed away. And that was that. The end to that long life.

In some ways it hasn't sunk in. Because she spent so long fading away, and because we lived apart her death hasn't impacted my life visibly and I still catch myself thinking "I must call her". And then I remember.

In Belgrade we've moved to a different house, so the rooms don't echo of her. But sometimes some wave sweeps over me and my throat contracts like a heart and I find myself burying my face in her sweater. I know her coat and blouse in my closet are not phantoms, or sad soldiers on a battlefield but I still can't bring myself to look at them for long all the same.

Mourning happens in pieces. People break and heal slowly as hearts and I have a whole storing house for grief.

I dreamt of her, the day before she died. In my dream she was sitting in a rowboat on a lake, drifting away. She doesn't smile or wave, but our eyes meet across the water and we say all that we can say of goodbye.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
guihong
Nov. 28th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
It's amazing to me that by the time the picture of her at 18 was taken, she had already lived through some of the most traumatic and nation-changing events in history in her homeland, things I would only read about in the history book. I can see a lot of you in her face, and in her strength, for she must have been a formidably strong woman.

Mourning does happen in pieces, in layers. Maybe it doesn't hurt as much or for so long, but it can wash over you without warning.

Go gently,
gui xo
rainsinger
Nov. 30th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
It's amazing to me that by the time the picture of her at 18 was taken, she had already lived through some of the most traumatic and nation-changing events in history in her homeland, things I would only read about in the history book.

Yes. Whenever I look at that picture I cannot find traces of the immense trials and suffering she had been through, but from living with her I could see where they left their marks.

x
chiller
Nov. 28th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful journal entry. x
rainsinger
Nov. 30th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
x
minnesattva
Nov. 28th, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
because we lived apart her death hasn't impacted my life visibly and I still catch myself thinking "I must call her". And then I remember.

Yes. This only adds to the breaking-and-healing-in-parts that we all do all the time anyway.

I'm glad you got your goodbye, even if only in the strange ways dreams allow these things.
rainsinger
Nov. 30th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you got your goodbye, even if only in the strange ways dreams allow these things.

Thank you. I hope you have also had your share of the same.
x
offensive_mango
Nov. 29th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
This is just lovely. From this and from other things I've read she sounds like she was a force to be reckoned with. x
rainsinger
Nov. 30th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
i like your festive mango
Yes, she was a force of nature indeed. And whenever I come across a cantankerous old lady nowadays I feel a little tender inside. :)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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