13 In LIFE/ Vent Sesh

Death in the Wrong Order

My grandma died last week at 90 years old.

She lived a beautiful, full life.

She was married 65 years, was a heck of a lot of fun, was incredibly loved, and served as the foundation that enabled my grandfather to build a successful business.

She raised two wonderful children, impressively spoiled her three grandchildren, and most recently, spent time making cookies and filling a toy drawer for her great-grandkids… my two little ones. Even at 90 and not able to do much on her own, she found a way.

And yet, I can’t imagine her last few years.

Beyond seeing her body deteriorate from Parkinson’s and a whole host of other related ailments, it was this that I’m about to tell you that was the hardest. That I cannot even begin to fathom.

She outlived her son.

My dad died two and a half years ago.

My grandma saw her son — her baby — go to the hospital for stomach pains, and two weeks later, stand by his grave.

Any mother (or father) that outlives their child…. I can’t. I can’t imagine that pain.

I know this happened when she was 87 to her 63 year old son. But the reality is that no matter how old they get, if you’re a mom, they’re always your baby.

As much as she hid her physical and emotional pain from me, her granddaughter, I saw glimpses. When she’d let me in, I’d simply listen and say the only thing I knew to say… yes, it sucks and it’s unimaginable.

I said it without comparing (or letting her compare) her pain or journey to anyone else, in any capacity. It’s irrelevant because sometimes optimism is better suited for another day. Some days reality just f’ing sucks.

I get that death is inevitable. We all need to figure out how to cope. And, we will. My grandma did; it’s just one of the many ways that reminds me of the strength of her character.

Yet, that heartache put so much in perspective for me.

Thousands (maybe millions?) of moms deal with this every day.

It’s that first-time mom who went to an ultra sound and discovered her baby — her sweet beautiful baby she never got to hold — no longer has a heart beat.

It’s that six month old who suddenly and without reason stopped breathing in the middle of the night.

It’s the mom whose child bravely fought cancer until the very end.

And, it’s the mom who lost her child to addiction, a drunk or distracted driver, depression or a myriad of other reasons.

There’s no comparing any of it.

It’s not fair of me to pretend I can imagine that gut-wrenching pain they (maybe you) carry as they go about their days, eventually feeling compelled to “move on” with life.

Before we brought home Evan, adopted at birth and who is now four, we lost a baby to a failed adoption three weeks before the due date, and 26 weeks after we committed to loving that baby forever.

It’s phenomenal the way your heart magically expands when you have a child, in fact, the moment you hear you’re expecting.

You love fiercely, unconditionally and even when you don’t think you can handle one more argument or picking up one more dirty sock, string of spaghetti or dirty towel, you love these kids with every fiber of your being.

You mama, are STRONG. Yup, all caps, STRONG.

Over the past two years since my dad passed, I’ve thought a lot about death in the wrong order because I’ve also thought about the opposite.

I’ve connected with far too many peers who are part of the “club” of younger children without parents… even though I suppose this is “death in the right order.”

A friend of mine shared a beautiful quote by Elizabeth Edwards… “she stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”

If you feel a hole in your heart, if you know someone who does, give it time. My gram did. It didn’t end her pain but she learned to live with it, learned to smile and laugh and enjoy time with those who mattered most. She adjusted her sails and her view of her life so she could enjoy the life she still had.

This grand-daughter is eternally grateful she had the capacity to do so.

Because, while death happened in the wrong order, her love absolutely went in the right direction.

The last two years brought so many memories for my children with their great-grandmother… so many in fact that my daughter, Sarah, asked if she could speak at her funeral.

I was hesitant, but she was sure.

And in the end, it was the most touching and perfect tribute.

An eight-year old girl simply wanted to share how she loved every moment she had with a 90-year old woman who found a way to adjust her sails and continue to love beyond measure.

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  • Reply
    Lisa
    June 12, 2018 at 2:16 PM

    This is the first time I have been able to read this post as it’s been sitting in my inbox since you wrote it. I have lost two sisters, one at 13 due to a sudden brain clot and the other at 25 to addiction. Watching my parents go through the pain of their grief is horrible. I have two young children and can’t even let my brain go to that scary place. Grief is hard for us all but I love what you wrote about giving the hole in your heart time. Thank you for being so open about your grief.

    • Reply
      Alyson
      June 12, 2018 at 4:47 PM

      I can’t imagine the pain that they, or your family has suffered, Lisa. It’s incomprehensible and I completely feel the same as a mom with young children; I cannot fathom… it’s too scary for sure. I just bought the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, as it was suggested to me by several people as I’ve started opening up about grief, particularly this type of grief. Perhaps it could have value to you as well. Hugs.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    June 3, 2018 at 8:50 PM

    I’m so sorry for your loss dear. And I definitely admire your courage to be able to write and put up something like this for the whole world to read. This is an amazing tribute.

    Jessica | notjessfashion.com

  • Reply
    Heidi
    June 1, 2018 at 5:37 PM

    This hits home. Heartbreakingly, tragically TWO of my dear friends lost their young sons in the fall of 2016 and watching them wade through their grief was one of the rawest most devastating experiences. I know, as a parent, it shapes the rest of your life and you never really get over it. Time moves on somehow, but life is forever altered. Your grandmother sounds like a remarkable woman and Sarah is so brave! Sending love, my friend.

  • Reply
    Christa
    May 31, 2018 at 7:51 PM

    My oldest brother died at 46, 9 years ago this July, and that was the hardest and saddest part, telling my parents and watch them bury a child. I felt horrible for his children, but it was so, so sad for my mom and dad. I am so glad you had your grandma for so many years and that her suffering is over. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Reply
    Cory
    May 31, 2018 at 10:47 AM

    I just love that your brave, beautiful girl spoke at your grandma’s funeral. What a lovely tribute. I am so sorry for the losses your family has endured over the past couple of years. It is so hard!

    • Reply
      Alyson
      May 31, 2018 at 4:21 PM

      Thank you so much, Cory. I couldn’t believe she wanted to speak but she wrote her speech and it was perfect. <3

  • Reply
    Kimberly Smith
    May 31, 2018 at 6:47 AM

    I cannot imagine what that was like for your grandmother to outlive her son – it should never happen but I know so many who have gone through the same. Praying for you as you continue to grieve her loss & remember your dad.

    • Reply
      Joy
      May 31, 2018 at 7:24 AM

      What a beautiful tribute that your daughter spoke at her great grand ma-ma’s memorial! So connect with your “heart words” in this blog! Sharing this quote that someone shared with me upon the passing of my Dad, “You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them…In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night…You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.” Antoine de St Exupery, The Little Prince.

      • Reply
        Alyson
        May 31, 2018 at 4:21 PM

        Been thinking about this quote all day, Joy. It’s perfect…. it really resonates. Thank you so much for taking the time to share.

    • Reply
      Alyson
      May 31, 2018 at 4:22 PM

      Absolutely. It happens so many ways. I’m currently also watching 13 Reasons Why which I’m sure is not helping all these emotions. I’m comforted however that my grandma really is finally at peace and reunited with my papa and my dad. <3

  • Reply
    Dianne
    May 31, 2018 at 6:37 AM

    What a heart wrenching blog this morning and also a tribute to your grandmother. Yes we seem to all have to face this at sometime whether it family or friends. I am so sorry for your loss but your grandmother left behind a legacy of how she enjoyed and spent her life.

    • Reply
      Alyson
      May 31, 2018 at 4:23 PM

      SHould have put a warning before this emotional one, huh? You’re right… so many of us face trials like this.

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