Losing a loved one

By Jerome Stuart Nichols | Life Editor
Added November 2, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Since I was very young, my grandmother and I have been very close. When I was a kid she was my main caregiver because of my mother’s hectic work schedule. During the time we spent together, I always enjoyed just being around her and doing things with her. Many of the hobbies we shared when I was a child I still enjoy today.

Due to her declining health and my distance now that I’m living at school, we haven’t been able to remain as close as we once were. Knowing a 75-year-old with slowly declining health might not be around much longer, I tried to get the most out of time I had left with the old lady. Over the last few months, we were able to stay in touch and rebuild the closeness that had been lost over the last few years.

Two weeks ago my mother called me with some news about my grandmother’s health, which made me realize things would not be getting better anytime soon. Over the fortnight between then and a second call from my mother telling me I needed to come home and see my grandmother, things got really bad. I knew what was coming, but I just didn’t want to say goodbye to the woman who had done so much for me throughout my life and whom I cared for above anyone else on Earth.

When I walked out of the Marshall building on Halloween and turned my phone back on, I had a text message from my mother: “Call me now.”

I stared at the message for the short walk from Marshall to my office in King Hall, praying to the God I don’t believe in, hoping this was not the call I’d been dreading for the past 48 hours. Unfortunately, it was.

I spent the rest of the day on autopilot while I tried everything in my power to keep from falling apart. It didn’t work; I ended up breaking down in tears on the corner of Oakwood and Washtenaw when Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” came up in my Zune’s shuffle. That was earlier today.

As I write this I’m sitting at the Starbucks in the Student Center alternating between the efficient designing of her obituary and fits of tears whenever a warm memory of her wafts into my conscious mind. It’s not an emotional state I hope to be in for much longer. I’ve never been particularly good at grieving, so it will probably last longer than I want it to.

I suppose mourning is rather apropos on Halloween, a day on which we celebrate the more macabre portions of our world. Yet for some reason, I have yet to feel comforted by the unfortunate irony. I am really hoping this is just some extremely bad trick and I’ll be treated to a hug from my grandmother tomorrow.

If you’re reading this, you can probably assume it wasn’t.

Losing a loved one is never an easy experience, but being away from home and the people who care for you most seems to make the experience infinitely worse. I don’t think I’ve ever needed the comfort of my mother’s arms or the happiness from a shared laugh with my best friend more than I do right now and it really sucks not to have either.

College can be such a lonely place. For me it’s usually lonely. But now I’m knee-deep in a shallow pool of sadness, it’s the loneliest place in the world. I know it’s not the best idea to be alone now, so I’m hoping a friend or two can take a break from their manic studying to help me stay sane. A few people have provided supportive words through Facebook, but what I’m really hoping for is a hearty hug and a double of something alcoholic on the rocks. But I’ve also never been good at asking for the things I need emotionally.

In a few days I’ll take the midnight train back to Oak Park to bury my grandmother. Because she chose to be cremated pre-memorial, I won’t ever get see her again, which is causing me a lot of internal turmoil. I know that, at this point, her flesh is just an empty vessel without its captain. But I really hoped that I would get the chance to stroke her soft gray hair or kiss her cheek one last time.

Until this week draws to a close and I can get back home, I’m going to have to keep living my life. That means I’m going to do what I do best, which is write. I don’t know exactly what will come of it, but it’s the only thing that makes any sense in this terrible mess. I would hope sharing my experience could benefit someone. If not, it will at least help me to feel better,
as writing this already has.

Over the next few issues we will be discussing more on the topic of grief and coping with loss. Stay tuned to follow my story
and the ways I find help on and around campus.

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