On Monday morning my maternal grandmother passed away. Another branch pruned from my family tree. Another loss etched into my emotional calendar. A double dose of grieving. I don’t know if her mind knew the significance of the date, but her heart must have indeed. For twelve years later—to the day—mother followed daughter in dying.
Both left life in the morning. Both in homes, though neither in their own. How eerie, how cyclical, how jarring, that mother and daughter should die on the same day, though years apart.
September twenty-third, the first full day of autumn. An ill-fated day for our family. A day of loss upon loss. A day of regretting and remembering: A call I sooner should have made. “Phone Grandma C.” on my to-do list since Saturday. A call I tried to place for three days, each attempt met only with ringing. She wasn’t there. She wasn’t home. No one told me, but she’d been moved to someone else’s house.
Then came Monday’s call from Grandma F. explaining what had happened. She isn’t there or here now. Her lifeline has been disconnected. “Call Grandma C.,” an imperative I will never again accomplish. My monthly reminders to phone her have been deleted with grave gravity. My only connection to her now, a network of memories.
Another missed opportunity: speaking to her one more time, adding another I love you exchange to the mountainous pile. These are the sorts of regrets that sharpen grief’s teeth in the face of death.
It reminds me of the invitation to visit I didn’t take so many years ago. The September eleventh still a fresh wound, my mother had asked me to please come home. But I had other things I wanted to do, so I stalled. I promised to visit her the following week, but the following week we had her funeral.
Mourning stacked upon mourning. Loss pressing down upon loss. A day of double bereavement. Tears shed for two now. Feeling acutely the absence of my mother as we prepare to put her mother in the ground. It is odd how one death echoes another and makes it resound. How there can be such impeccable symmetry in life and death, joy and sorrow—like those who (having lived a long life) die on the day they were born.
My heart is heavy. My mind is full. Death is the sole task of the dying, but it leaves the living with so much to do.