Life Lessons #6 Grief and Gratitude
Updated: Jul 29, 2019
I don’t know if many, or anybody had noticed but you’ve had a bit of radio silence from me during the month of May. I suppose you could say that I've had some kind of writer's block. The first few weeks of May were so optimistic for me; I had a month left at my school, I had my first solo trip to Lisbon planned as well as a weekend away in Northern Morocco and Algerciras with my best friend. My friend Bridie was coming to visit,I'd planned a killer Eurovision party and of course spending a lot of time with friends who I wasn’t sure I’d see for a while. I had so many plans, so much to look forward to. But it didn’t pan out the way that I’d foreseen it.
Despite writing so earnestly and personally on my blog, when it comes to more sensitive and familial topics I tend to steer away from talking about them. When other people are involved I find it best to not speak on their behalf; unless I have their consent of course. Now, as it’s been building up inside for a while, I feel like I can talk about what has been going on.
On Thursday 9th May I remember coming home from my working day at school, and for some reason I was in such a spritely mood, more so than usual. I was heading on my first solo trip to Lisbon that night- I’d never travelled internationally before on my own and I’d booked this trip a long time ago and still couldn’t believe that the day had come. I almost skipped out of school because I was so excited. On my way home I’d even bought some new Spanish books for the trip and called my dad- like I always do, just to check in on him and have a catch up. He told he needed to speak to me about something once I got in my flat. I didn’t really think anything of it. I sent off my TLRP proposal and was fixing some lunch when I saw it on Facebook.
I have to say that finding out bad news via social media is always the worst- I don’t think it’s appropriate and most of the time it’s insensitive. I went into a state of shock, half for the news and half from the way that I found out. I wasn’t expecting to receive the news that my granddad had passed away, especially in that way.
For some background, I had always known that my granddad was ill. He had multiple illnesses, including different types of cancer but he never complained, and never once said outright that he was in pain. I will always remember his kind demeanour; he was such a joker- never serious and always trying to make me laugh. He was a man of few words but what he said was also thoughtful.
I’d never experienced death this close to me before. I’ve had people who I’ve known who have died but I never thought that I would experience loss. I know I’m coming from a place of privilege here because I had the pleasure of having a granddad for 21 years. In my mind I’d kind of created this idea that my grandparents were going to live forever. As delusional as that may be, I just assumed that they were going to be around for a long time. I’m also sad to say that I wasn’t worried about my granddad. Out of all of my grandparents, I didn’t believe that I was going to lose him so soon or so suddenly.
When I was home in April, I had wanted to see him- I always make the effort to see my grandparents every time I’m at home because I’m aware of how precious time is. Yet when I was heading back to Spain, I realized that I still hadn’t seen him. My dad said not to worry and I comforted myself with the fact that I would see him again in June when I came back. Then, I found out that he was in hospital. Both my dad and I thought that he’d be coming home soon, so again I wasn’t too worried. My granddad was a fighter. He’d been battling for so many years that I just thought that he’d battle through this one too. Unfortunately I was wrong and in the end he was just very tired, too tired to keep on fighting.
This is what brings me onto gratitude. I’m grateful for the final phone call that I had with him a week before he passed away. He took of his breathing mask and spoke to me so clearly- it was like talking to him normally. He seemed so jovial, still cracking jokes and being as cheeky as ever. I still didn’t understand the severity of the situation because I didn’t see it with my own eyes. I still thought he would be coming home.
I then had this cloud of grief hanging over me for the whole month, as the funeral wasn’t scheduled until the end of May due to external circumstances. I had a lot of decisions to make- I didn’t want to go on the trip that night anymore, nor have the Eurovision party that I’d been frantically dreaming of. I just wanted to go home and have a hug from my mum and dad. They told me that my granddad wouldn’t want me to be sat in my flat alone, he’d want me to do all of the things that I’d planned. I still wasn’t convinced.
But then it came to me, the idea that I could do all of those things, but do it in his memory. Despite how painful it felt in the moment. Even in our last conversation, he was still in awe that I’d been travelling, and of all of my future plans. So I packed my bag and went on my trip to Lisbon. It was the hardest trip of my life, because I was doing it on my own- I only knew two people there and I didn’t even have a plan. I did find that despite the arduousness of the trip it was one of the most rewarding and reflective ones I’ve had. In time I think I’ll write about it in greater depth.
The month of May itself carried on as usual. Since my grandfather’s death, I’ve become more aware of time. Especially how it doesn’t wait for anyone. When I found out about my grandfather’s passing it felt like time stopped for a minute, then all of a sudden things carried on. The world didn’t stop spinning; the clocks didn’t stop chiming- people carried on with their lives. I realised that you do have to keep going, that’s what my granddad did despite everything. He was such a kind and hard-working man. He instilled a work ethic in me, in all of us, which I’ll never forget. He endured racism, discrimination- so many challenges in his life, yet he still viewed life though a humorous and carefree perspective- something, which I have and will always, admire. Even though he was very poorly he still drove his car, ran his business and was a carer for his partner, all at the age of 85!
That is why I’m so grateful that I got to know him, that I have the memories, that I’m able to say thank you for teaching me how to be strong and to always work hard. I don’t know if the pain will ever truly go away and I still haven’t quite accepted that you’ve gone yet but I do know that, regardless of my faith or beliefs, you’re going to be there always watching over me, and I’m going to do everything in my power to keep going and make you proud.
Love you forever granddad