The Last of the Greats

Life, unscripted. Last Monday morning, I awoke from my slumber after having had a restless sleep. As is often the case, I couldn’t really remember what I had dreamt about. Whatever it was, the entire day, I felt a deep and visceral feeling of self-loathing. I couldn’t remember a time where I’d so hated myself. However, as they say, this too shall pass. By Tuesday, things had started to settle itself, but on Wednesday, it was clear why I’d felt unrest on Monday.

There are people in your life that have always been there. Regardless of any kicking or moaning, my mother has always instilled in us the love of family. Like her mother before her, mom made sure that we knew our kin. Whether it was this aunt or this cousin, mom wants us to never lose our family ties. We are not like most, we spend a lot of time together, and we talk on the phone or contribute to our group WhatsApp thread frequently. We are so close that I live within 20 minutes of my parents and 10 minutes of my brother and his wife. And so, Wednesday seemed like it would be like any other day of the week, starting with my mom sending out her daily inspirational messages. I was wrong.

My paternal’s maternal line had to say goodbye to a dear and treasured loved one. The family historian, Aunt Bloss, had also been a beauty queen and the support system for many family members. I’d spoken to her on the phone a few months prior when I needed to find out some ancestry information and had seen her several months before that. Jovial, conversational, welcoming, she always sat in her chair, never leaving the comforts of home. When mom sent a message to our Inner Circle WhatsApp thread about her death, she also included the last photo of us from the previous year. Smiling, there we all were, multiple generations of our family huddled around her.

Like my beloved grandmother, Peggy, who passed away 5 years ago, this too was an unexpected blow. Both had strokes. And although her niece preceded her death, for me, still having my great-grandaunt around allowed me to still feel connected to my grandmother and those generations of the family bloodline.

The very next day was my grandfather’s 80th birthday, grandma Peggy’s husband. While excited that I’ve had him in my life for all of my almost 40 years, that too made me sad. For some time now, I have been distancing myself from my surviving grandparents. I’ve been blessed. My paternal grandparents were in their late 30s when I was born. I am their only granddaughter (and oh how I never let them forget it!). I spent part of my childhood living with them in Jamaica. I’ve chosen to detach because of the almost insurmountable emotional blow that I still feel by my grandmother’s passing. This is just my way of coping, avoiding, surviving. When I love, it is deep, and it’s forever, even if I am unable to emotionally let go.

I called grandpa on his birthday and allowed myself to briefly think back to my childhood, to his strength and guiding hand, to how my life in Jamaica was. Conversations with him, although less frequent, are both difficult and cherished. It’s hard coming to grips with a vanishing past and a future without him.

My mom and I were able to attend Aunt Bloss’s funeral on Saturday. We walked into the viewing room, and although I could see her lying in the coffin, I kept my distance. I’d hoped that the physical distance would also aide in an emotional one. To lighten the mood, I joked with my mom about not going taking a picture with Aunt Bloss. Morbidly, my mom took pictures of my brother and me with my bio-grandfather at my dad’s father’s funeral. I somehow thought that I’d make it through the funeral without shedding a tear. That didn’t happen. The reality of it all set in, and the tears fell. Who, at 39, can say that they still had a great-grand that was still alive and one that you still interacted with? Her death marked the end of an era, an end of a generation still rooted in the molded pleasantries of my Jamaican past.

Despite the pain in the recollection of these thoughts and feelings, I am and will be thankful tomorrow, on Thanksgiving. I have been and continue to be truly blessed. For the love of family, I will be with many of them tomorrow, reminders of the increasingly distant past, a cherished present, and a thoughtful future.

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