Celebrating life! A Time of Healing and Thanksgiving (Part 1)
Janice S Ramkissoon
01st November 2011.
Our family is in mourning. As you read this article, you too may be experiencing grief similar to the various members of my family today. In our circle, some are grieving the loss of loved ones; others are watching their dearly beloved deteriorating. Throughout the month of October there are usually two things on my mind, ‘the death of my maternal grandmother’ in conjunction with ‘cancer awareness’ and as November approaches I think of my maternal grandfather who would have been celebrating his birthday if he was still with us—he died of a heart attack.
I grieved the loss of my grandparents for many years. However, I was stuck in the anger zone for a very long time concerning the death of my grandmother. Below is a piece from my book, ‘Embracing Forgiveness’, to share with you a part of this journey:
Grandma Peddie (April 1919 - October 1999): Grandma died. She was the only mother I knew. I thought she would always be there to give the answers to all my questions. I had just started a new job and concerned that having to ask for leave, to travel for the funeral, could find me jobless on return. Grandma was ill for a while. She had breast cancer. We knew that this day would soon appear, so the grieving was possibly taking place from the day the diagnosis. It was too late to operate so even though she had a short period of being cared for as a cancer patient, they later sent her home to die, saying they could do no more for her.
I was angry with the doctors from the moment they diagnosed grandma—the start of the grieving I believe. When we first discovered the lump, we took grandma to the doctor who sent her to the hospital for a biopsy. The hospital reported that it was not cancerous. We went home and carried on with the daily activities—life goes on! Twice we took her to the hospital and the results were the same. Grandma stayed with that lump until one breast was obviously larger than the other was, and this time they made a diagnosis of breast cancer. The lump erupted and she had to stay in that condition for two more years until the Lord called her home.
I was angry throughout the illness and each time I thought of the condition that grandma was in, it made me sad. I was sad that I was not by her side holding her hand in her pain. I was sad that I was not able to go and spend time with her in her last days, even though she spent all her latter years looking after me. I remember crying for a while but I did not grieve properly, I had things to do, in preparation for the funeral. Grieving could always wait until later—after all it was grandma who said, “No! Don’t cry. Your granddad wouldn’t want you to cry…” Grandma did not cry when granddad died. She suppressed the grief and I believe it contributed to the illness that took her life.
Grandpa Peddie (November 1919 – July 1995): I had just entered my adult years, looking forward to enjoying life after barely making it through my teen years, when death came and took my granddad. At his funeral, I could not hold back the tears, a sign of the previously suppressed grief. That was when grandma told me not to cry. I didn’t have time to grieve for grandpa either when I first learned of his death. He died while I was sitting an accounts exam, as part of my degree. I knew something terrible had happened when I froze in the middle of answering a question and could not re-start for a long while. I later understood that during those frozen moments of numb feeling, was when granddad died. I got the news when I went home and remembered throwing myself on the bed crying, in disbelief. I had no news of granddad being ill, other than the usual aging ailments. Moreover, even though he was of retirement age, when I last saw him I couldn’t tell that he wasn’t a fit and healthy middle age man. He had a heart attack. Suddenly, he was gone. He was gone! Death is no respecter of persons.
It was my granddad’s brother and his wife who brought the news. They were sitting in the living room talking with my mum. I knew something was wrong when I saw them both in the living room, with a look of sadness on each of their faces. After the news was broken and I reacted the way I did, I was told to stop crying. "Crying is not going to bring him back." I heard. I tried to stop the crying with little success but once I was composed, it was time to make preparations—a visit to the bank manager to raise finance, flights to book, preparation for the wake and the funeral. Soon we were back into the hustle and bustle of the day. Got to keep the ball rolling! After all, I had another three years to complete at university, I couldn’t afford to fail and having to repeat a year, I already did that in high school. I wore the famous mask of the strong one who never breaks—I just kept on going like a Duracell battery. I was walking around with all that suppressed grief and slowly, life was being sapped out of me.
Getting reports of Grandma’s deterioration saddened me. When news came of her death, I felt relieved. She was no longer in pain. However, I began to feel guilty for feeling that way. Therefore, each year in October I would re-live those horrid years of her suffering. I would greet the month with mixed emotions. During October and November, I would feel very low. Years had passed before I began to look past the illness that took my grandmother and began to search for memories of earlier years. That is when I began to remember grandma in a happy way.
Writing the poem, ‘Strength of a Woman’, in memory of my grandmother helped me to re-focus my thoughts and remember grandma beyond the cancer that ended her life. I then set up a page on my website “In Memory of…”, a place where I share my memory of my grandparents. Sharing my thoughts began a process of healing. I have since come to accept the death of my grandparents and I am thanking God for the foundation they laid that I can now build upon.
I still miss her. I still feel sad when I think of how she suffered in her last years on earth but I am thankful for happy memories. They helped with the process of healing. I am thankful that I met her and that I shared those precious years of her life. I’m thankful she represented Christ in her lifestyle; in the way she taught and disciplined us. I’m thankful she introduced us to Christ and thankful for all the songs I learned from her as she danced and sang them around the yard while doing the chores; while rehearsing for the choir or the women’s federation...That’s where my love for music began and it came back to bring healing.
At her funeral, my cousin, Latoya, sang, “I Remember Mama’ by Shirley Caesar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLa7LYijFks). It is often the first thing I think of now when I think of grandma. Today I share the link with you in the hope that it will encourage you, if you need healing from the loss of your mother or grandmother. You may be grieving or just beginning to heal. On my journey, I found that when I listen to gospel songs I always receive a message that lifts my spirit and keeps me praising God for all He has done for me. Today I am praising Him for healing. Many people have helped me to get to this place and so I pray that as I continue to share, others will experience a shift from their place of pain as they move a step closer to their healing.
God bless you on your journey!
Your sister in Christ,
01st November 2011.