Part of the explanation for our disappearance from the blogosphere for a while was my 3 week emergency trip back to the U.S. where the intention was to pitch in to help the family with my grandmother’s sudden illness. I never made it to help the family, but I did make it in time to attend the funeral services.
When we moved to Nepal I gave my family instructions; to my cousin, ‘do not get married till I get back, to my sister, ‘do not have babies till I get back’. But, I neglected to tell my two remaining grandmothers not to die until I got back. So with this colossal oversight on my part, they both proceed to die, within 7 weeks of each other.
It is a strange stage of life where those who were so influential in the formative years of my life, teachers, grandparents, you know, adult people, start dying. I find myself a little shocked and unsure what to do, even though I knew they wouldn’t always be here. I guess I’ve always counted on having older, wiser, more experienced people around, that it wasn’t my time yet to have to deal with the tough stuff, that I could avoid the weight of the world a little longer. Now I find myself in the position of being the ‘adult’ and I’m really just not confident I can do it.
On one hand I’m sorry, so sorry that I was here in Nepal and not with them when they died. I’m devastated I missed one grandma’s funeral services and I’m so heartbroken that I just missed the other in life. The Hindu here in Nepal have traditions when a family member dies they participate in different rituals and worships and the family is not expected to cook or clean for a full two-week period. In the west we typically have one remembrance service where the family gathers together and then are expected to move along with daily life. I’m unsure how to process the deaths of those so close to me and find myself looking at photos, listening to songs and remembering, because I’m just not ready to ‘move along’. I wonder about being away from my family during all this and if these things would be easier if I was not on the other side of the world.
On the other hand, spending so much time intentionally remembering and thinking of my grandmother’s has given me determination to really do something with this one wild and precious life I’ve been given. My grandmothers were really strong women, maybe constrained a little by the societal limitation of their time, but not constrained or put down by themselves or those around them. They used their lives in ways that brought themselves and other people joy. We just have this one wild and precious life to experience the joy and beauty in the world. We only have this one wild and precious life to understand who it is who made it all. We just have this one wild and precious life to learn to pray. We just have this one wild and precious life to make an impact where we can. So in that regard I’m glad to be here in Nepal and in honor of Elaine I will enjoy the dance and the beauty of life around me here and in honor of Martha I will try to touch someone who needs someone here and I will do what I can with my one wild and precious life, even here in Nepal.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
You do not have to move along with your life. Yes, your life will go on as it has to but you get to mourn your grandmothers and cherish the memories you have of them. It is always a shock to have someone you’ve known all your life not be there. One is never ready for these events. Take all the time you need to surround yourself with photos, songs and memories. You can light a candle on their birthdays or any other event that ellicits your memories, talk to them, pray and know that their spirits are in you. I noticed how much you look like Elaine but also see a bit of Martha in you.
In Jewish tradition, there is a period immediatly following the funeral call shiva, meaning seven in Hebrew (not the Hindu god) but a 7 day period of mourning where friends and neighbors visit with the family, bring prepared food, set it out and clean up. Prayers are said in the home, mirrors are covered (so the mourners need not see themselves) and do not partake in any pleasures such as music or attending social events. A head stone is traditionally set up 11 months after the death when the “official” period of mourning is over. on On the anniversary of a loved ones death, a candle is lit and a special mourners prayer is said during the Sabbath service.
You are in my throughts and prayers during this difficult time.
That was beautiful Hannah! Praying the Lord continues to heal your grief.
Oh boy, just read this and now am sitting here (at work) crying. Both grandmas would be proud of you and what you’re doing with your wild and precious life. Love you!