I can’t think of a title…


This grieving stuff is hard …but it’s a bit like recovering from an injury (and I’ve had a few of those);  one good day followed by a bad day and hoping that eventually some form of healing will come.

Someone said to me today “we forget that our parents went through the same thing with their parents; we probably didn’t notice because they were being strong for us”.

My father’s dad died suddenly at a young age; my father was not long in Australia with a newborn – me.  He did not go back to Guernsey;  he did not have money for flights.

When it came to his mother though he had exactly the same sort of trip that I’ve just made .  She was admitted to hospital in Guernsey and as she had apparently alienated all her friends (paranoid schizophrenic)  it was up to the police to find her next of kin.   It was me who answered the phone when they called and I rode my bike down the paddock to tell him.   The flight from Australia to Guernsey is incredibly long & we lived 8 hours drive from Sydney to start with.   One must fly Sydney to London (around 28 hours in those days)  then onto Guernsey. He did not make it in time to say goodbye – she was only 63.  He stayed awhile to tidy up her affairs; we did not see him grieve.

On my mother’s side;  her father died at age 88.   He dropped dead from a massive heart attack while cooking eggs for my grandmother’s breakfast.  At that time my parents lived about 7 hours drive away;  their car broke down soon after starting their trip.  As my father was by then paralyzed down one side from his stroke, my mother had to call for help and wait another day for parts & repairs before setting out again. By that time my (ex) husband and I were already with my grandmother.  I remember the funeral director coming and mum’s younger sister making the same sorts of decisions my siblings & I have just made.  When my parents arrived my mother took on the role of caretaker of her mother;  much as I’ve just done with her.

Mum’s mother went into a nursing home when she was in her 90’s and passed away quietly when she was 99.   She had asked a nurse for a cup of tea and when the nurse came back Nan had just slipped away; no fuss.  Nan hated to cause a fuss.   I’d been to visit only a couple of weeks before and was back in the US when she died.  Mum said “don’t come back” so I don’t know how she coped in that final step to becoming an orphan.

I’ve lost more friends than I have family.   I never knew my paternal grandfather  & I only met my paternal grandmother once when I stayed with her for 2 months in Guernsey after finishing high school.  She never came to Australia; my father had left Guernsey in 1952 and only had one trip back while she was alive  (1974).

We grew up with mum’s parents, Nan & Papa, being a huge influence in our lives.   We lived on the farm; they lived in the town.  We lived in dirt; they lived on bitumen.  We saw them numerous times a week & I have many happy memories of  weekends staying with them.  But, by the time each passed away my life was far from that middle-of- nowhere town; Sydney when Papa died and Washington DC when Nan died.  I was saddened but I was one step removed from them; I had my mother as the buffer.  It occurs to me now that I probably never asked my mother how she was coping.

I took very few family photos during my 12 days home – one of my brother & his family the day after the funeral and this one below of my locksmith son and my daughter (the princess), the night before I flew back.    In our culture we seem to be embarrassed by grief; I’ve been “strong”  in front of my children and it probably seems to them that I have not been very upset over their grandfather’s passing which probably impacts somewhat on their own level of grieving.    Life is a funny thing.


18 responses

  1. It’s so very strange to come to these realizations, isn’t it, Emjay? None of us really quite realizes what the others have gone through. Maybe it’s enough for each generation to deal with it’s own…(when that’s possible of course).
    I don’t have many answers. This post raises many good questions, however.

  2. Your daughter is a stunner! Jane had mentioned she looks a lot like you when you were younger. Your family has enviable genes, in my opinion.

    As Lauri says, your post raises many questions, ones that I confess I have not thought about much. Both of my grandfathers died before I was born. I know my mother was a daddy’s girl and was affected very deeply by her father’s death shortly after the war. Dad on the other hand was a mama’s boy and was very close to his mother, so her death affected him the most. I didn’t see any evidence of that following my grandmother’s funeral, however. He’s always been a stoic person, so if he was torn up inside, it never showed. (And now that I think about it, my parents must have been really hard on each other, since they both were used to being spoiled by their parents.)

    You also have me wondering about how I will respond to my parents’ passing. I’m so deep in looking after them, it’s a bit hard to imagine. Part of me thinks I will be relieved, but another part of me I’m sure will grieve. I hope you’re feeling a little better since your return. Chocolate and wine are always good for heartaches.

  3. There are not words to convey how sorry I am for your loss. Your writing as always though, is heartfelt and hard hitting. Gorgeous pictures, lovely kids. You know where I am if there is anything I can do.

  4. Very sorry for your loss. My own parents are “getting up there,” though doing pretty well. It’s not a transition I look forward to; never easy, needless to say, no matter how “expected” it may be. (Unexpected was my brother’s departure, 11 years ago. A shame he’s not here as my parents age.) Be well!

  5. I can only echo what you’ve said Hon – my parents grieved but in private when their respective parents passed away. I remember my grandma passing and it was dreadfully sad as we were so close.

    Your children are beautiful and The Princess looks just like you!

    Love and hugs to you Emjay XXOO

  6. Things with grief are so difficult and strange, and yet…it is wonderful that he made such an impact on you that you are grieving.

    It is interesting to me that you refer to your parents as being orphans. My Mom used that Phrase when her Mother passed away. It seemed sort of ridiculous at the time, coming from my Mom, who is not that young herself…but I am starting to see that it is a common feeling…and one I will probably experience as well.

    Hang in there.

  7. You’re doing everything right. Keep writing and talking to us or whoever can listen. We want to know! We want to share that connection with you.

    Your grief touches our grieving, old or new. It’s a bond that can never be the same between generations, I think, but amongst peers, yes.

  8. It is a circle of life that we barely think about, isn’t it?
    I wonder sometimes how I am wired. Death has always been a open subject in our family with mum being a nurse and confronted with death a lot.
    The first death that I remember being confronted with is my great-grandmother, but wasn’t at the funeral. According to my mum she thought I was too young.
    Within the family the next one was my mothers mum. Since my mother doesn’t have a problem with grieving and showing sadness, she was crying and I was the one being strong for her.
    On my grandmothers funeral I noticed that I would get evil – eyed by many of the attendees, probably because I didn’t cry. Later the day I mentioned it to my mum and she told me to not care about it – everybody grieves differently.
    Next one up was my dad’s mum (both granddad’s died before I was born) and I grieved a little, was told there was no point to come since there won’t be a funeral, and alarmingly quickly moved on with life.
    Even when my cat, that I was super attached to and dreading just the thought of losing her, had to be put down I wasn’t really grieving.
    So now I wonder how I will react if any of my parentals, other loved ones or friends ever move on to the other side….

    Keeping my fingers crossed that the good days will become more frequent very soon.

  9. Grief is certainly a sneaky emotion, always in the back ground, ready to leap out at weird times. I remember being angry whenever I saw an healthy old man walking around the streets – how dare he be alive and well when my Dad had died too soon. Less anger, more missing now – all the great children he has missed, the weddings. But yes, life goes on, generation after generation.

  10. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. Grief is a hard path to walk. And everyone’s path is different. When I lost my mom I was devastated.

    What I wish for you, that I wish I had in myself during that time… I wish you peace. It helps let the light in.

  11. You are such a good writer and how interesting a read this was. Requesting a cup of tea and then quietly passing away sounds so British. Your daughter is stunning. Her cheekbones are magnificent.. I am again sorry you have lost your father. Writing about it probably helps.

  12. I know this is cliche but time really does heal. I hope that you will be good to yourself during this time. Grief is different for everyone. I’m sure your children know that you are grieving and they will probably grieve in their own way as well. Many hugs to you, my friend.

    Your daughter is very pretty.

  13. It is so true when you mention that Australians seem to be ’embarrassed’ by grief. Perhaps as children we could have been educated to handle this inevitability in a different way.

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