*I wrote this in April but it was way too much to process at the time. I am a safe distance from these things now, so I can share.
My grampa’s one year deathaversary was just last week. I spoke to my grandmother on the phone and we were able to enter into that sacred space of being candid and vulnerable and imperfect. She has not slept well this last year without her partner and friend of over 60 years. I told her I could not believe it had already been a year. It feels like he just died. My father died almost 17 years ago and it feels like he just died yesterday. So much time has passed and the wounds are fresh and tender.
Me: Gramma, does it feel like he [grampa] just died?
Gram: Sometimes yes and no. Sometimes it feels like he has been gone for too long. And sometimes it feels he was just here.
Yeah. That is exactly how it feels sometimes. I remember holding his soft cool hand by his bedside as he lay there dying. I sang him hymns. He struggled to breathe. I compulsively checked his radial pulse. His heart just would not quit. His face was gaunt. He did not speak. We waited and watched. We waited for his death. It took him a very long time to let go and to die. It feels like it just happened yesterday. Every pain and smell and sound is so near.
Last week I was able to see my best friend give birth. I was there when her first baby was born. Six years ago her daughter was born in a hospital. She had an epidural and I held one of her legs and her husband held the other. She breathed and pushed and her daughter was born. Today her daughter is leggy with golden pink hair and a coy smile. I held that kid once as a swaddled burrito, her belly button scab came off on my shirt and I thought I broke her. The 6 year old (that she has magically become) and I have a mad crazy bond. She will always be my first kid, my first baby that I desperately love. It is strange that she talks to me in full sentences. It is strange that she knows stuff. And she knows so much stuff. It feels like she was just born yesterday.
Last week I saw her sibling born, at home- a natural tub birth. It was much different from watching my friend labor the first time. I still held a leg, though. The labor was long. There was breathing and prayer and encouragement. There was hand holding and grasping. There was waiting. There was listening and checking for the baby’s heart beat; it was so loud and strong- that little beat. The labor was 16 hours. For her 6th child, that was a long labor. But then she pushed, and her son shot through the water in the tub and bobbed to the surface.
The stark similarities between my grandfather’s death and my friend’s birthing are not lost to me. The events were so similar, but they were so different.