Over the past several weeks, I have been in a space of increasing stakes. There’s been a lot going on in my life, and many things have challenged me head-on. As always, I practice de-escalation of my own raised stakes, admittedly with varying degrees of success.
Of course, when offered the luxury of time, and you can see things approaching like a slow-motion train wreck, it’s always best to prepare yourself and take what steps you can to make sure that you’re able to deal with any situation as best you can.
Journalling is one such tool that can help to gather yourself and work through the onslaught of force that is approaching. It can provide the space to explore your thoughts, edit and re-edit your approach to a particular situation, name the feelings you may be experiencing, and even possibly create discussion points to help you through when the situation finally hits.
For myself, I have a wave of emotion that has been buffeting me for a little while now. The crux of much of it will hit me very shortly, and to prepare I wanted to journal and share some of my thoughts.
My Grandmother, Sheila, passed away on Friday night.
Her passing was not a surprise for us. It has been coming for a long time now – in slow motion. And while you can prepare for it as much as possible, the moment will always be a difficult one. I had already been visiting often, seeing her the day before and even taking the dog down with me and letting her cuddle on the bed.
So we went over to my grandparents’ house in the afternoon, once the kids were off school. When the kids entered the room, Grandma’s face lit up. She opened her eyes wide, and managed a cheeky smile as they ran over and gave her a hug and a kiss.
My family and I sat in the room alongside her bed, which had been set up in the dining room a few days earlier. For much of the night I sat cuddling with my Grandpa, his face swollen with tears. We laughed and told stories, watched the footy on the little TV in the corner, ordered some really cheap and nasty pizza, and on the evening went; a room full of love, laughter, and warmth.
Soon, she struggled further with her breathing. Her laboured wheeze drawing us all in closer as the night went on. She opened her eyes for a moment, and tears rolled silently down her cheeks. My brother wiped them away with his hands and she closed her eyes again. A beautiful yet heart-wrenching moment I will carry with me forever.
I held her hand as she took her last breath, all of us cuddling her as she slipped away into the night. In that moment, I remember thinking to myself that I needed to keep breathing. It was all I could do to stop myself collapsing in a heap and shutting down entirely. We all stayed right there, sobbing for what seemed like an eternity, not wanting to let go.
She fought hard, not wanting to go. I am still amazed at her strength through everything, right to the end.
Her funeral is today. In that moment, it’s going to be so hard to stand there, frozen and retreated into my ‘Survivor space’ as I look at her for that one last time. In putting these thoughts down, I prepare myself – in a way – for that moment. There are people relying on me for a strong and stable contribution, and a good action: my wife, my children, my family.
There is a need for empathy and compassion, and for understanding… and for the kids, an explanation – as difficult as that is. Bringing a By-stand into the dialogue with them will help them as much as it will help me. Sharing what I know, telling those stories, and explaining how and why will be so important. Not only will it enable me connect the dots for them, but it will enable me to keep those stories of my Grandma alive.
Those memories are often what we live for. Letting myself get swallowed up into the dark spaces of High Stakes will not serve me well. Rather, I choose to make this Move now, prepare myself for that moment, and show strength where it will be certainly needed.
I love you, Grandma. You will always be missed, and forever in my heart.