Before and after the storm

My grandpa died this past weekend. But it was not the one we were expecting. Gordon McKnight passed away on Saturday, just a few months shy of 100. He was an architect, artist, and creative inspiration. Immensely talented, with a contagious smile that can still be seen in my mom and my sister, passed from one generation to the next.

My mom and sister traveled to Ireland to be with him in the moments before his death. My mom’s sisters and their kids joined as well. It was sad, but at the age of 99 he had a full life well lived and was ready to move on.

There’s something strange about sitting in the quiet aftermath of tragedy. The world keeps on moving, everyone blissfully unconcerned with your aching heart. I felt this after Carissa’s mom’s death this summer, too. Life keeps ravaging on while a hole burrows itself in your soul, leaking quiet drops of grief into you whenever you start to feel whole again.

It’s the irony of death. Breakups too. It is so commonplace that to everyone else it is just another ordinary event. But to you, it is the world crumbling down around you.

Then the shock settles, and you start to piece yourself together again. Recovering your vibrancy, bit by bit. It is in this quiet aftermath that I find myself, hoping for rest but knowing this lull is both the settling after the storm and the calm before a new one.

My other grandpa, Poppy, was diagnosed with terminal cancer last month. While he is undergoing treatment, we do not yet know what the outcome will be. The first doctor gave him only a month to live. If this treatment goes well, his new doctors say it could be years. This limbo of uncertainty feels worrisome and unsettled. Hoping for good news yet preparing for tragedy.

My personal life lately has been a mix of catastrophes and blessings. I have been having continued complications from my head injury, aggravated by my foot injury and worsened by migraines. While I am certainly fine, it has impaired my ability to function 100%, so I’ve been referred to a neurologist. I was supposed to be going to Guyana next week, but the doctors urged against it, so I am staying. With everything else going on, I think that will turn out to be a good thing. Backpacking in the jungle can wait until I have a fully functional brain and no damaged nerves in my feet.

When I feel myself fraying at the edges, I seek the things that ground me most. Walks on the beach. New songs on the piano. A cup of tea and a novel. The enormous accomplishment of cooking a meal for myself. Letters sent to friends. One step at a time, one day at a time, hanging on to the little joys. And this too shall pass.

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