On March 18, 2011 at 5pm, I was riding with my mother to dinner in Florida to celebrate finishing my first week-long OT clinical experience for school. The drive ended quickly after my mother received a phone call. My mother was quiet and she didn’t have to utter a word.
I knew my Papaw was gone.
A horrible feeling came over me -- I no longer had any grandparents present in my life. I’m sure many of you have experienced this emotion before. Do you remember the feeling? I hear stories now of people twice my age that have a grandparent they can still visit. At 25 I only wish I could hear those once trying and now memorable stories again and again that Papaw probably told me a hundred times.
Last summer my mom said to me, “I kind of feel like an orphan.” A heartbreaking statement, although, one that does contain truth.
My grandmother passed away two years ago from Parkinson ’s disease and dementia. My grandfather followed her almost a year and a half later of a heart attack. I do feel comforted now however that he is back with his best friend and his heart is no longer broken. I have never met any two that demonstrated the love that those two did. The devotion that my grandfather showed during my grandmother’s time at the skilled nursing facility is something that has nurtured my love for the elderly population.
My family worked hard this summer dealing with the physical and emotional ups and downs of preparing my grandparents' house to sell. It has been quite the journey, and now we are about to embark on another one this fall. My Mamaw and Papaw were cremated, and although they were supposed to be taken to their resting places right after the ceremonies, my mom and aunt wanted to keep their ashes a little bit longer. Now that they are both gone, my family decided the most fitting time for a final goodbye was this October. That was my grandmother’s favorite time of year.
I come from a family of teachers and my Mamaw loved the start of school, the changing of the leaves, and the beautiful, crisp fall days. It was very sad to lose these wonderful people in my life -- the individuals responsible for the strength and love my family enjoys.
Yet, I know that losing loved ones is much like the leaves of the seasons changing. Winter brings cold and loss. Spring brings growth and new life. Then we wait for those beautiful fall colors to show before we start the whole cycle over again. We must appreciate the beauty when it is here. Then, in time, we move on and start the next season with the ones we love.
Sara is pursuing her master's degree in occupational therapy and a graduate certificate in gerontology.