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The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Grief is an unexpected process: life after death 

Graphic by Liv Klassen | Photo Editor

The clanging of pots and pans always beat the sound of my alarm to the finish line. My grandparent’s maid causes a ruckus downstairs trying to get their breakfast in check. While I cozy back into bed, they have polished themselves up for the new day. My grandfather, tok papa, greets the sun hello with a coffee in hand. My grandmother, tok mama, recites a string of prayers to lift any weight off her shoulders. This is their ritual.

This image of them – sharp – is what I have ingrained into my mind. It’s kept in a scrapbook as I step foot onto a plane and fly across the ocean. Intangible, yet I carry it with me wherever I go. My grandparents were getting older by the second. I doubt it’s unreasonable to bear the fear of not being able to say goodbye, and they were proven right.

Being on the other side of the world during their deaths isn’t exactly the change I was asking for. Yet, it didn’t quite come as a sucker punch to the gut. It wouldn’t be right to say little did I know, they would be gone. Tok papa was 90 and tok mama, 86. The more their health complications piled up, the less time they had on the clock. The fact that I still had a few years before I’d bag my degree cemented the fear.

The battle with grief arrived

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Tok mama’s last words would slip in the form of telling her maid that her time had come. I remember those WhatsApps that said she had stopped breathing. The confirmation that she was gone. It was the first thing I woke up to that morning, and I sucked in a deep breath – one that I released only days later.

A month later, my grandfather followed suit. The circumstances were slightly different. He had been in the hospital for days and it was the frailest I had ever seen him. The doctors were in combat too, but there would come a time where even our saviors had to surrender. It was not long after that tok papa would lose the battle. Again, the predicament would be the first thing I woke up to that morning. Again, my chest felt tight for what seemed like days. 

However, I thought I would feel sick 

The idea that I’d no longer hear him spit political arguments with the men on the television as my grandmother nagged from the distance left my memories of home a little bare. I thought the dam would break, the tears would flood and only my friends would hold me afloat. It’s the first time that I’ve really had to grieve after all. Yet, all I can remember from both instances is feeling…majorly confused.

A million questions burst into my head like I was conducting some sort of analysis. Are they finally resting side-by-side? Has my grandmother finally stopped stressing over her husband’s antics? Does my grandfather get to see all his old buddies he’d talk about like he was in some 1950s film? Is it pretty up there? Was it painful, dying? I lied on my bed and pondered for hours and hours ’till my eyelids were heavy. Perhaps, it’s their old age. Maybe it’s the fact that tok mama could never give her overthinking self a damn break. It could also be that my grandfather was ready to join his wife.

It surprised me that with grief came a slight sense of contentment

For the first day or two, the anxiety made my bones feel almost brittle. I was riddled with worry, too, because my family had to see everything in real-time. It made me realize that being able to just sit alone, away from the chaos was quite the luxury. In a short period of time, I could rebuild the dam and keep all the threatening emotions at bay. The more I just trudged about the day like nothing just happened, a sense of calm came in small waves.  

It wasn’t like my grandparents were in tip top conditions. Far from it. I will always remember on the forefront, the warm stroke of tok mama’s hands and the quick steps of tok papa’s feet. However, I can’t erase the sound of her tears traveling across the hallway. I can’t erase when my grandfather was found unresponsive in his signature leather seat. As reality truly hit, I remember the breaking points they faced in their old age. I remember the struggle it was for the medic to transport my grandparents onto stretchers with utmost delicacy; shards of glass cutting at every hand that tried to help them.

So instead, I told myself that it wasn’t the time to be bogged down by selfish fears. Losing them was one of the most devastating things to drag down another plain school day. The fact that they get to do the one thing that living in the real world doesn’t quite offer though, rest, puts me more at ease than anything else ever has.

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