Morbid Thoughts

My grandfather passed away this morning. He had emphysema for years and had taken a turn for the worse in the past couple months, so we saw this coming. My mom has been down there since last weekend, and I’m heading down tomorrow.

The last time I went to a funeral of someone I knew was when I was five for my great grandmother. I am extremely lucky that my other three grandparents are still living, so this will be a first for me. For the moment, I am not feeling very emotional, but that’s likely to change once I get there. A 30 minute drive back from my home to my townhouse, I got very pensive:

What’s the meaning in life? Unsure that there is some external source to give meaning, I like the hypothosis that it is somehow based on relationships. To me there’s elegance in the recursive nature of something like that: life gives meaning to other lives. We’ve bootstrapped our way into something meaningful.

I tell people about my grandfather and they say that they are very sorry to hear it. What is the appropriate response? I suppose thank you. (I’m not very good at these things.) Appreciation for their concern is what I would like to show. I’ve been trying to mitigate it, saying that we saw it coming and so forth; much like I did at the beginning of the post.

The whole thing has got me thinking of the giant snowball that is life. It keeps rolling, and though some pass away, everyone else keeps hurtling forward whether they like it or not. I imagine a snowball because some people are insulated at the center and can forget that humanity involves a tremendous numbers of births and deaths, ups and downs, every day. Others are bombarded with the grim reality that, at least in the physical world, we are just complex systems robust in some ways and delicate in others. How different their lives must be than my own. To them it it might seem to be a long march, that everyone begins at one point and ends at another.

Rory, who I started reading because of google love, said this:

And – the thing I never could have expected – the death of my grandmother has changed my perspective in so many ways that I actually feel like a different person. So different that it feels strange to be writing right now. Like I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to say. I feel like I’ve forgotten what my favorite color is (assuming I previously had one).

I’m not as close to my grandfather as Rory was to his grandmother, but I wonder how much his death will affect me. (I left that present tense in, in honor of the two previous ones I “corrected.”) Will I be more motivated to do what’s important to me instead of wasting time? Odds are against it, sadly, because I’ve thought that many times in the past. I did manage to post today though, forgoing the relatively unimportant task of catching up on reading.

Maybe I’ll just appreciate people more. I called some people who I hadn’t talked to in a while today, but I just wanted to talk to them, without mentioning my grandfather. I spoke to others, and wanted them to know. It’s kind of like #3.

If you’ve read this far, I sincerely thank you. I am genuinely curious about what your thoughts are.


One Response to Morbid Thoughts

  1. Rory says:

    Hey –

    “For the moment, I am not feeling very emotional, but that’s likely to change once I get there.”

    It took me nearly two weeks to even realize that my grandmother was dead. And that’s in spite of the fact that I was *there* – I was in the house, looking at her lifeless body.

    It was too much of a change. She had been around for my entire life, which in a way is to say that she had been around “forever.” The sudden loss of someone/something so significant is incredibly difficult to process.

    You begin to realize how huge a single person’s life is. It’s not just the person – it’s everything that goes along with that person. His/her presence at holiday events… photographs… images from childhood… the history… the knowledge that one of the progenitors of your particular brand of DNA has just died…

    It’s enormous. And that’s without considering the person.

    That might be why it takes so long to realize what’s happened and to really *feel* it.

    “I tell people about my grandfather and they say that they are very sorry to hear it. What is the appropriate response?”

    I wondered about this myself.

    An event like a death can do a good job of opening your eyes to the fact that there *are* no appropriate responses to some things.

    People are just giving you the only thing they can, which is the acknowledgment of your loss. Nobody can change what happened. Saying “sorry” is really the best anybody can do.

    Hugs are nice, too, but just hearing someone try to relate can be helpful.

    “Will I be more motivated to do what’s important to me instead of wasting time? Odds are against it, sadly, because I’ve thought that many times in the past.”

    Having watched my family deal with my grandmother’s death, and having solicited the opinions of *many* people about how they dealt with such loss, I learned that people handle death in widely varying ways.

    In my case, I really am a different person. I’ll never be the same. I might not turn into a saint or start helping people across the street, but I’ll never again be the guy I was a month ago.

    What was fundamentally me will never change, but all the window dressing has. I’m not exagerrating when I say that things actually *look* different. In some cases, colors look more vibrant. Music I’ve never liked suddenly appeals to me. Tragedy seems to have rewired my brain.

    It didn’t happen instantly, though. There were about two weeks of numbness and confusion first. It was her burial that actually solidified everything for me. That’s when I knew I’d never be the same.

    Who knows how it might affect you – but you’ll probably find out before long.

    A friend of mine just lost his grandfather, and he’s dealt with it by wearing his grandfather’s clothing – he’s actually trying to turn himself into his grandfather. It’s interesting.

    Like I said, the ways in which people deal will vary widely.

    “Maybe I’ll just appreciate people more.”

    That’s something I’ve definitely done. My friends know wihtout any doubt whatsoever now that I love them. I tell them often. I tell my family often. And I *mean* it. I’m not just going through some mechanical display of emotion – I genuinely feel it.

    My grandmother’s death, as hard as it’s been for me, has brought me closer to everyone else in my life, and in that respect is actually a good thing. The lady’s even helping me from beneath six feet of earth.

    Death is strange.

    But I wish you the best, however you deal with it.

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