We all experience death in different ways. We all grieve in different ways.
We do have a choice. I choose to remember and honour the person that was.
Grandpa 15 Nov 1900 to 31 Dec 1986
On the last day of 1986 we received a call to say that my Dad’s Dad (Grandpa) had died. It was my first experience with death and I wasn’t sure how to respond. It was really the grief that my Dad was feeling which turned my world upside down – leaving little room for me to initially experience my own grief. Dad never shed a tear. He did, however, chop a lot of wood that day and remained quiet. Us girls stayed out of his way. I watched him all day from a distance to make sure he was ok.
We had had very little religion in our upbringing, very little faith, so there were no boundaries or expectations on how to cope with this. So pretty much I made it up as I went along. Yes, I felt a sadness in my heart – both for the loss of my beloved Grandpa and to see my Dad in so much pain.
My Grandpa had been a sick man for a long, long time. He was also quite an active man. He loved pottering around in his garden, telling yarns about his life, hugging his grand-children with an abundance of love that would leave us breathless from its power. In the last couple of years of his life he was unable to do any of that. He had become a shell. At 16 I sensed quite deeply that he was happier in his new place or home. I had no idea where that was but I felt him in my heart quite strongly for many days afterwards and I still do today. For that I am so grateful.
At the time I had recently discovered and was avidly reading Henry Lawson. Grandpa was an Adam Lindsay Gordon fan. We had never discussed Australian author’s but I am sure Grandpa would have read and listened to Henry Lawson stories, as he was a sheep shearer for most of his life. On the day of his funeral we were driving slowly towards the cemetery. I used to sit on the right hand side of the car behind the driver. I watched a petrol truck slow down when he saw our funeral possession. He pulled over to the side of the road and switched his lights on. By the time our car passed the truck driver was sitting with his head bowed. It was such a sign of respect he made to a family and a man he didn’t even know. It was straight out of a Henry Lawson story called The Union Buries It’s Dead. I felt that Grandpa knew that. I smelt him with me and I felt his hug.
Decades later I still feel choked up by that experience and it fills my heart with an abundance of Grandpa love.
“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.”
Ye Wearie Wayfarer – Poem by Adam Lindsay Gordon