SaMWay 7: The Pain I Wish I Felt

Mourning to Dancing: Part I

Unlike the issues before it, this is not a glory story. It’s not a tale of how God is working for good, because I cannot yet see the good in it. Instead, this is a story of sadness, grief, and pain that I should feel, and which is throwing its coils around my mind.

I was seventeen years old the first time someone I knew died.

A year earlier, my grandmother on my dad’s side began to have health issues. On Thanksgiving, we traveled from Southeast Tennessee to a little town near Louisville, Kentucky, to see her, and my mom said it may be the last time.

She was still alive, however, in May, but she had gone to the hospital again. And again we went to see her on Memorial Day weekend, this time in Louisville. And again, it may be the last time we would see her. She was dreadfully thin, and for the first time, I saw her as an old lady.

Labor Day was the same, except that she looked better, and she was at home in her little town again.  We took her to dinner, spent the weekend with her, and even raised a flag that we’d bought her for Christmas the year before to replace her old, faded, tattered one.

I distinctly remember that she enjoyed the Red Lobster dinner, and despite being on oxygen and needing a wheelchair, she was almost completely herself. She ate raw oysters, one of her favorite foods, and complained about the service—oysters served without sauce and biscuits without honey. But these complaints were just part of her old self, which we all missed so much. She definitely enjoyed every bite of her dinner, and I was pretty sure that she was happier than she had been in a long time.

But that Monday, when we left, she asked in dismay if we weren’t leaving already. Mom had already said that she wanted to visit her again around New Year’s, but something inside me that I never shared told me that it would never happen.

My reputation as a pessimist convinced me to keep this quiet, and so I played the part.

Less than a month later, Grandma was in the hospital once again. This time, I heard very little about what was happening, and so after two weeks, I had quite forgotten about it. My mind was occupied with school, and when I had time to not think about school, I had plenty of schoolwork to focus on.

Today, October 6, 2022, was normal. My mom woke up before me and turned on the news. Then I got up, and we watched the news for a while. But what was unusual was the fact that Mom got a phone call at around ten—from my dad.

At first, I thought he’d run out of gas or something. Mom said “Hello”, listened for a moment, and then said, “Don’t tell me”.

Her tone of voice at this point was what made me think that Dad had run out of gas or broken down on the freeway, and when Mom answered, “I’m on my way”, still in the normal tone of voice, my suspicions were confirmed. We’d have to take Dad a can of gas, or something he’d forgotten to take to work with him. It wasn’t the first time, and of course, it wouldn’t be the last.

But then she added, “You need me.”

I was confused for only a moment. Mom’s tone was suddenly different—albeit only slightly. I immediately remembered that Grandma had been in the hospital, and I knew, as Mom repeated the words, “I’m on my way. You need me”, that Grandma was gone.

But maybe not. I was, after all, eavesdropping on a phone conversation. Eavesdroppers always get it wrong, right? Of course right.

And then Mom looked at me and said, with tears in her eyes, “Grandma’s gone.”

I felt an intense pain or shock of some kind either between my eyes or between my lungs, I’m not sure which. For a moment, I heard neither the news nor my mom on the phone. But then it passed, and I was unable to feel any emotion. I couldn’t think straight, and simple tasks took twice as long. The thought of going to my class at Bryan College, which was probably my favorite place to be, was not at all inviting

It is hard for me to explain how I feel, but I am confident that you, my most devoted reader, will be able to comprehend what I am going to tell you. I tell it to you through pen and paper because the paper is most trustworthy. It may repeat my words to a thousand souls that I shall never know, but I need not worry, for they shall indeed be my own words.

I feel no emotion. I feel as though this had never happened. This is probably because I am not, as a rule, emotional. One might say that I despise emotional and sentimental things. As much as I hate being alone, I would rather live in a hermitage than spend an hour in a room full of people weeping and making a great to-do about “I’m so sorry” and “Bless your heart”. That is nothing against those people, it’s just who I am. Paint me coldhearted if you wish, but I find it remarkably uncomfortable to be in that kind of situation.

While I cannot find any emotion regarding the passing of my grandmother, I am by no means unaffected. At times I find myself unable to think, and sometimes I become distant, lost in thoughts that I can hardly comprehend. And worst of all, I have no one to talk to. My parents seem to be handling it well, although my mom cried a lot, very quietly, the next day. I don’t think she knows that I noticed, but I did. But talking to my parents isn’t the same. I do have one or two good friends at Bryan College, but I don’t spend much time there. So I’m here, all but alone, with a terrible fear that everything will all become real at the funeral we’re about to leave for, and still trying to determine if I’ve even processed the fact that this truly happened.

This issue of Strange and Miraculous Ways is part of a series, “Mourning To Dancing“, but the next issue is not in the series.

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