Grandparents from both sides arrived at our home the day after Charles died by suicide. I was underwater emotionally and I needed to offload some of that grief onto my loved ones who were ready to hold me up at a time when I didn’t know how to exist, move forward, or even think. It was such a relief to fall into their arms. I’m fortunate to have had both sets of grandparents at that point.
My dad’s mind was going and dementia had set in which in the long run would provide some cushion for his grief because he’d forget Charles died. In some ways, I was jealous. But it meant my mother was handling a lot. Just getting up to my house was difficult. She was still caring for him at home and she was 80, and my dad was 84. And he was a handful and needed a walker and a handicapped hotel room. Meanwhile, my in-laws drove some 8-10 hours from south Georgia so they had a long way to go with short notice. My best friend Martha came from Northern Virginia.
It was a time when my mother needed me
Decisions about my dad needed to be made several times per week. But for the first year after Charles’s death, it was all I could do to brush my teeth. And while I thought about how it affected his brother, and his grandparents on both sides, I couldn’t really stay in that headspace because I was in an alternate, slow-moving universe and didn’t know when I’d be able to come up for air.
My dad died in May 2020 and my mom died in August 2022. The process of going through my ancestral home is a healing one. It’s a time to revisit old memories and remember the love, laughter, tears, grief, and beauty of a life well lived. Not a perfect life but I feel grateful for having two parents who loved me.
This house has a history
My grandparents built the house in 1929 and no other family has ever owned it. For the first time ever, the house will go on the market so other families can make memories. While a lot of my grandparent’s things had been sold in an estate sale, there were still a lot of pictures, photo albums, newspaper clippings, and more that have accumulated over decades. I had to go through all of that and decide what to keep, what to sell, what to toss, and what to shred.
As I was going through the file cabinet my mom kept upstairs, I ran into a file that had the cards my parents received after my son Charles’ death by suicide.
As I opened the file I didn’t feel like myself reading the contents
I was my mother holding those cards and reading them. It was the oddest shift in perspective to feel like someone else.
For the first time, I understood how lonely she was in her grief since my Dad simply didn’t have the mental capacity at that point to process the death. Besides the cards, there was the memorial service bulletin, the obituary, the article I wrote after his death, and the many others that followed.
Many of the cards from her friends had thoughtful handwritten notes and it softened the hurt that had been like a blunt force trauma just moments ago. And there in the back was the first draft of my first book, Diary of a Broken Mind.
My eyes were no longer filled with basement dust because the tsunami of tears and reflection that followed were mine and hers mixed. I had to just breathe, sit with it and not let fear of a foreign feeling rob me of the moment.
While difficult, it was also beautiful and has taken me some time to trust.
So while my mom is not on this earth anymore I had a moment with her in my heart that I couldn’t have possibly had if I’d been anywhere else but that house at that moment reading and feeling her grief and mine.