A requiem is a piece of music for the dead, generally, a Latin mass. Growing up, I sang dozens of versions of the texts of these songs. Some of them are more depressing than others. They are all variations on a theme- asking Jesus to grant the souls of the departed rest and reprieve from sin. (Pie Jesu: "Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest; grant them eternal rest.") What none of them really talk about is those left behind. Catholicism isn't my religion, of course, and I'm free to pick the best of any of the things I grew up with, I guess, but these beautiful masses have left a mark on me (and not just because "Requiem" is a beautiful word. It is.)
My mom mentioned the other day- the other week? the other month? Time has warped completely- that she doesn't view these deaths as tragic. They're not- both of my grandparents lived long, fulfilling happy lives and their deaths were mercifully short. (Mercy is a concept repeated in the texts used in requiems: "Spare, o God, in mercy spare him!") But the last few months have felt tragic- there have been other personal things mixed in- but I've never really felt grief like this. It doesn't help that it's not baseball season, and I'm only being a little bit glib. What do we do now? What do I do now?
When I started writing these, I wrote them for me. I write this whole blog for me and am still sort of mystified that people read themacinator! But family members have read the posts and emailed me and sent the most sweet notes. I love that others share these same memories or versions of the memories or felt like they got something out of the posts. Some other memories have come out, too- I love it. But what do we do now?
My dad sent me an email asking when he got his post, and would I write it while he could still remember. Well, this is the post (sort of). One of the things we do is remember how lucky we have it- I am SO lucky to have had grandparents into my 30s. I'm lucky to have had grandparents into my 20s, and as I said at the beginning, I'm lucky to have had grandparents who loved me unconditionally, and always. I am also lucky because my parents (and aunts and uncles) are amazing. When my grandpa fell and started declining, my parents upped their trips to LA in frequency and length of stay. My aunt E lives the closest to grandpa and has always been there for him- above and beyond there for him. But mom and dad were there, too, as backup for E and as daughter and son-in-law for Grandpa. It wasn't easy. They went away for a month near the beginning and I did a little, but they did a LOT. In the middle of that, Jackie fell and started her decline, and the trips to LA got more frequent and longer. Mom and Dad were now each supporting a dying parent and each other. It could not have been easy and, the majority of the time, they made it look, if not EASY, not like an obligation. They called it a gift that they could give their parents. A gift that they wanted to give their parents.
They drove or booked open ended tickets and stayed in hotels and those long-stay apartment things or even in Jackie's condo. They ran errands for M, Grandpa's partner, and for each other. They went to endless doctor's appointments- endless as in many and as in hours long. Sometimes they only slept in their own beds for one night at a time. My dad flew back to Oakland on my birthday, just for the night. Dad fed Jackie ice chips every minute on the minute. Mom learned how to conference call on a cell phone and held strategy conference calls with her siblings. They worked well with their siblings. Dad started carrying a cell phone full time (does he use the microwave yet?!). They asked for help when they needed it (sometimes). They took care of each other. They modeled behavior that I can only hope to emulate when they get old and need me. They were (and are) amazing, in the face of a loss that must be 18375 times greater than mine, though I know I'm not supposed to compare.
My parents have been married 45 years, as of about a week ago. This got lost in the shuffle of the deaths. I know it hasn't always been easy, but that is not my story, it is theirs. But it is part of this story- of the grandparents. My grandparents raised two (more, but this is my story, so just two for this blog) amazing individuals, and I'm lucky to have them. I feel like I'm in the middle of a whirlwind, but what I'm holding onto is that my grandparents were amazing and my parents are amazing. A requiem doesn't remind us of that. It asks us to look to God for grace and mercy. (Kyrie Eleison: "Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy.")
Instead, we're gonna go with Bob:
"When you're sad and lonely
And you haven't got a friend
Just remember that death is not the end."