Taking the Good with the Bad

Thursday, September 9, 2010

One week ago, I received some very sad news. My grandmother, who we called Mamaw, passed away. I was expecting the news to come any day because she had been in hospice for quite a while. However, I did not expect the news to come of the first day of a much anticipated vacation.

Fortunately, I made several trips cross-country in the last few months to see Mamaw. We talked and laughed, and I was able to do some special things with her to help keep her mind off her condition. I'm so glad I made that effort while she was here. I learned the hard way how much that matters from not having done so when my grandfather was ill years ago.

So there I was, only six hours away from  home and six hours away from my final vacation destination. I could go to a funeral or I could go to my college stompin' grounds and attend my sorority reunion. All the times I had gone home while Mamaw was alive (and through numerous phone calls), I had discussions with my parents about flying in when Mamaw did pass. It was inevitable, so might as well be emotionally prepared, right? We all agreed whole heartedly that time and money was better spent visiting while she was with us, and I was content with that decision...until the very day when I had to act on the decision.

I was standing with my husband and mother-in-law at the moment. I was choked up, but not the emotional wreck I had been several months prior when Mamaw's health really took a turn for the worse. It was as if I had finally come to terms with it.

I remembered the discussions with my parents and how Mamaw did not want me to spend time crying over her...yet it was hard to accept the fact that I wouldn't go to a funeral when it was so possible to do so. I had paid all the respect in the world to her. I had been in touch with my family throughout her hospice stay to offer my support. I had said my goodbyes every time I ended a visit with her.

I turmoiled over my decision for the whole day. It wasn't until a late evening phone call with my dad that I felt better about what I was going to do. He said he'd do the same thing if he were in my shoes. Considering this was his mom that had passed, I counted that as his blessing.

So I didn't go to the funeral. It sounds sooo weird to say and equally so to write it! I was really worried about what the extended family would think of it all. I didn't want them to misunderstand this as any kind of disrespect. My parents doubted it would be an issue and said they would take care of anything that came up. They felt that anyone attending the funeral would know better because the of life-long relationship I'd had with Mamaw.

I traveled to my sorority reunion, staying in contact with my family the whole time. I planned out a special memorial dinner with my younger sister, who happens to be attending the same school that I was headed to. We took time away from the social activities to spend together and made a classic Mamaw meal: greens, soup beans, cornbread, fried potatoes and sweet tea. We ate and laughed and talked about life...it was good. Sure, I missed seeing my family that would have attended the funeral, but over the dinner my sister and I made, we built a memory. Mamaw would have wanted it that way.

During every moment of my vacation, I was surrounded by people I care about, laughter, reliving memories, and thoroughly enjoying life. Someday, when I am in Mamaw's shoes, I want my family out doing the same. Don't feel sorry for me. Don't sit around waiting for something to happen. Do things that will allow you to look back and smile. Get busy making every moment count because you never know when you are going to enjoy your last one.

Love you, Mamaw.

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