My grandmother died this morning. Suddenly and in tragic circumstances. She was ninety-two, but probably in better health than many people thirty years her junior. She was still very much full of life and love. Her loss feels massive in a way that I can’t really articulate. She was the anchor of our large and unruly herd, the glue that held us together. She was the common, persistent, faithful thread that wove through all of our lives.
Over lunch, my wife mentioned that this was the last of our eight grandparents to die. The last of a generation. There’s a sadness that sort of seeps into the bones upon realizations like this. I will miss my grandma’s morning emails (which she sent out to all her children and grandchildren), her correcting the grammar on my blog posts, her many kindnesses and encouragements, her blunt pragmatism, her prayers… Always, her prayers.
I need good words at times like this. Some don’t, I know. Some don’t even want them. But I do. Christian Wiman’s writing is often the first place that I look when I need language for loss. Wiman lost his own grandmother in difficult circumstances. I read this passage in his marvelous book My Bright Abyss this afternoon. His words express my faith, hope, and love beautifully:
What does faith mean, finally, at this late date? I often feel that it means no more than, and no less than, faith in life—in the ongoingness of it, the indestructibility, some atom-by-atom intelligence that is and isn’t us, some day-by-day and death-by-death persistence insisting on a more-than-human hope, some tender and terrible energy that is, for those with eyes to see it, love. My grandmother… whose spirit poured and pours over the cracked land of her family like a saving rain, exemplified this energy, and I feel that to be faithful to her, faithful to this person that I loved… I must believe in the scope and momentum of her life, not the awful and anomalous instant of her death. In truth, it is not difficult at all. Nor is the other belief—or instinct, really—that occurs simultaneously: that her every tear was wiped away, that God looked her out of pain, that in the blink of an eye the world opened its tenderest interiors, and let her in.