On biological expiration

Posted: August 9, 2010 in Personal
Tags: , , , , ,

I wasn’t present at that momentous time when Death slipped into the room and stole my grandmother’s breath. I was fortunate enough to have had time to speak whatever words I could coherently form, whether she had the strength and resources to hear them or not.

You have a lifetime to speak a million words to someone, but when the final moments arrive, your search for some profound maxim; some statement to convey your utter joy for having known them and grief at their passing; proves futile. No Shakespearean tongue lends itself, no Keats or Byron possesses you in these most significant of hours; you are left with meagre sentences to attempt to articulate a galaxy of feelings and memories.

You want to communicate your loved one’s importance and legacy to you, to surrender your pride and expose your true feelings when there is no chance of awkwardness or humiliation. Is this a weakness within our culture? That people’s pride prevents them from letting someone know exactly how special and influential they are until the sands of time run short? Do we have a sense of shame at revealing too much of ourselves? I feel like I’m guilty of this.

Despite spending many hours beside family members in a vigil around my grandmother’s deathbed, I was not present when she drew her terminal breath, but I was not remorseful. Although I would have felt honoured to have been holding her hand as she slipped into the great beyond, it seemed too important a moment to bestow on myself. I had let her know how grateful and privileged I was to have had her as a grandmother, and had wished her a peaceful passing. I somehow knew that it would be a phone call, rather than the moment, that would draw me in.

Her death was mercifully rapid and predominantly pain-free, though jaundice and organ failure had ravaged and left her as a travesty of the fully functioning person she was mere days earlier. She had clung on two more days than anyone expected, with her courageous heart battling on in the face of organ surrenders all around it. She had recently undergone a successful hip operation on the NHS, only to immediately lose her appetite. When this went on uncomfortably long, a scan revealed cancer in the liver which had spread: her body had started to turn on itself. It is a measure of her benevolent character that her only pragmatic complaint was the money she felt she had wasted allowing the National Health Service to provide her surgery before the discovery.

In the minutes following her departure from this existential plain, the church bells continued to chime. The clouds rushed across the sky obliviously and televisions still flashed in the surrounding windows. In short, life continued regardless. For this is death. Profound perhaps; tragic certainly; but a biological certainty, just as the continuation of adjacent lives will be.

Whether my grandmother is heading for the majesty of Heaven or the infinite tranquillity of nothingness, she has seized her own stake on immortality through the legacy she created being passed down generations, for this is the most preferable, nay the only way, that man (or woman) should seek to live forever.

Ada May Bliss


Rest in everlasting peace.

Ada May Bliss 1924-2010

  1. Sam Leverton says:

    Aaron. The most touching thing I think I’ve seen in a while. One is always assaulted by guilt after the death of a loved one. Nothing I can say will heal that – that is the job of time alone. But I hope I can provide comfort in saying that an inability to come up with some way to convey ones feelings is by no means a failing. After the death of a family member I loved dearly I was at loss to say anything fitting at the time. Indeed it was only after a long period of time I could find a way to write something meaningful. I think any grandmother would be touched by your heartfelt words written here, sometimes the only way to explain your emotions come, at least in your own mind, too late.

  2. Thank you Sam, means a lot coming from someone who has had to deal with this kind of grief. It was cathartic writing this blog, and you’re definitely right about time being the only proven medicinal for the raw emotions tragedy provokes.

  3. blackwatertown says:

    A beautiful piece of writing.
    It sounds as though you did everything one could wish to do. You were there. You conversed. You were supportive and loving.
    Sometimes we miss chances and regret opportunities not taken. You did what you could and should.
    That’s all you can do.

  4. Read this and choked up a bit. I haven’t lost anyone close yet, but can’t imagine how hard it will be when the time comes that one of my grandmothers should pass. A really honest, touching post.

    Rest in peace.

    Charlie x

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