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Good Grief

“What’s so funny about your grandma dying?”

I keep imagining a scenario where someone asks me this question, and I know in my gut that I have an answer, but I feel like I have to piece it out to really pin down exactly what I would want to say if I ever had to answer that, and I might, because I HAVE been telling a joke about my grandma dying, because she is, and I’m trying to deal with it.

I think that’s really the gist of what I have to say about this, is that this is me trying to cope with the imminent loss of someone who I love and care deeply about, who helped shape me as a person, and who- I really do think would like it if she could hear it- I mean part of the joke is just really morbid things she said about her own impending death. That’s the backbone of why I felt compelled to write a joke about my experience with it so far; finding out she was sick, and that it was terminal, and the noticeable decline in her health so far– because I don’t know how else to deal with it other than to laugh at it. Because when I can laugh at something that hurts me I feel a little less powerless, a little less weighed down by the seriousness of it all.

Because it’s not funny–

THAT she’s dying.

It’s not funny staying at her house overnight, not being able to sleep for fear that if I do I won’t hear her call for help, or fall out of bed.

It’s not funny hearing her groan, and look so pained, but not know how to help because she’s too sick and doped up on painkillers to verbalize what she needs.

It’s not funny kneeling at her bedside, holding her hand as she cries to me about being afraid she won’t wake up, and equally afraid that she will, and then crying about things she’s hallucinating, not being able to convince her they aren’t really happening.

It’s not funny getting a phone call from my mom saying if I want to say goodbye I need to be on my way now.

It’s not funny that when I started writing this piece she was still alive.

What’s funny is that this is completely and totally normal, that everyone goes through this and everyone just has to deal with it. Its the absurdity that bad is actually ok, because in order to keep living a life- working and interacting with people, eating and sleeping, it just has to be. You have to make it ok. And you have to keep trying, because it’s too easy to backslide even when things aren’t so bad.

It’s easy to take a good thing and pick it apart until it’s not good anymore, like someone eating all the m&m’s out of your trail mix– but lets be real that bag is gonna sit in your cupboard until you move out unless you find some little chocolate candies to balance out all the unsalted peanuts.

It’s easy to find darkness in the light parts of life, but it is Necessary to find lightness in the dark parts.

It is Necessary to fight and push and pull and scrape so you can climb up and pull yourself out.

It is Necessary to get out of the darkness, because it wants to swallow you whole, and if you stop fighting it will.

The battle is constant, life doesn’t just give you perpetual daylight. Life throws you in the deepest pit and hands you a novelty LED keychain it won at a roller rink that didn’t come with batteries and sarcastically says “good luck!”

We crawl around in pitch black, covered in muck, searching for the energy to power our escape.

Life laughs in our face and says “You’ll never get out.”

So we laugh back.

We say, “You know what I kinda like it here. The amenities aren’t great, like I could use an extra pillow and it would be nice if this room came with a microwave but overall I’d give it 3 stars.”

The darkness shrinks, “No you don’t, you can’t like it! You’re miserable!”

We say “Don’t be so hard on yourself, it’s not that bad! This complimentary mud mask is very relaxing!”

“It’s not a mud mask, it’s filth, it’s weighing you down, it’s holding you back!”

“My skin tone is gonna be so even! Look at how small my pores are!”

and suddenly, for a moment, there is no pit. Suddenly we’re at a hotel spa, with like, really soft robes.

Suddenly we feel in control.

That’s what it feels like when I tell the joke about my grandma. That’s what it felt like when I heard Jeff Pfoser’s joke about a baby funeral. That’s what it feels like when I can laugh about situations in my past that have caused me pain. That’s what it feels like when, even just momentarily, the weight is lifted, and I can breathe.

That’s what it feels like when I take the power back, hold it in my own hands and decide

“It’s gonna be ok.”

Dedicated to my Grandma Luann.
1942-2017
RIP