My Grandmother's death certificate reads December 17th, 2003; but it happened on the 16th.
It? It. An urgent phone call.
"Can't you go any faster?" asks my aunt.
It is already too late. So why are we in a hurry?
All I think about is my Grandfather, possibly alone at another aunt's apartment. I think about the way he cried when Grandmother went to the hospital in November, and how I held his hand. I wish I was doing the same thing now.
We see her, still connected to the apparatus of modern medicine. It's as if she's about to open her eyes and say, weakly, "Why are you all standing around in the middle of the night?" or maybe "You woke me up". More likely, "Oh, hello!", happy to see such a large gaggle of descendants.
In the hospital corridor, I am impatient. I know there is nothing I can do for the dead. If it were to happen again now, I would linger -- not from any sense of regret -- I don't know why. Ignorance born of experience.
Duties of death follow; funeral (I do not cry), will, obituary, grief. Christmas.
When we arrive in the town where she lived, Maple Creek, I expect her to be waiting. Instead, the cupboard beside her chair is empty and handwritten notes in the house are suddenly transformed from grocery lists to weapons of emotional torture.
Weeks later I still think, occasionally, "Shouldn't someone be with Grandma at the hospital?" Couldn't we have done something? Isn't there a way it could have been prevented?
How much worse must it be for her daughters. For Grandfather, her companion of just barely more than sixty years. I am just a grandchild, one of eight. I did not know her well enough. I was getting to know her. There is so much I will never know. I wanted my children to know their great-grandmother. I wanted to invite her to my wedding. I wanted to get into the habit of emailing her, I wanted to ask her to teach me how to hook rugs. Looking at pictures of her from the summer, I can't believe such a vital-looking person could be gone.
I have never experienced the death of someone I know, before; somehow I feel spoiled. Seventeen years untouched by death. If only everyone should be so lucky.
Earlier this fall, I planned a New Years' reflection. A journal entry, perhaps a daylog. This year I began to understand mortality, I would say. This year my mother was sick for months, made fragile by pneumonia in summer. This year my grandmother came to the city so we could care for her, went to the hospital because of imbalanced electrolytes. I did not plan to say that she died there, her initial illness left behind. I did not plan to write of the strange remembrance, the question: What was it? Was it pneumonia, a simple inability to breathe? Could she have been saved? Was it internal bleeding, unknown and unstoppable? Was it inevitable? Was she in pain? Is this abrupt fall what she wanted? Did she know, when she asked for my Grandfather that night? Is she, now? How is it that we can go on so calmly, when she is gone? Does she watch us, scattering in her wake?
And why do I write? What is it about this that makes me yearn for semi-formal confession as never before?