Wednesday, April 04, 2007

On death and dying

On Monday Olly's paternal grandfather passed away. She was of course very very sad but more importantly, this was the first human death she had ever experienced. They had the funeral yesterday so we all piled in the car at 6 a.m. for the two hour drive to Viareggio. The night before she had expressed being "scared", that she didn't know how to act or how it would be. I gave her a big hug and held her for a long time. "Don't you worry, I am the expert on death and dying, you're in good hands with me." Driving over the Appenine Mountains she asked me about my deaths. I told her about my Mother dying when I was ten and my brother dying when he was twenty-two. All my grandparents have of course passed away and one boyfriend who died rather quickly from ALS. She didn't know if she wanted to go into the church and I let her know that that was okay. My sister did not go to our mother's funeral, everybody just has a different way of dealing with a loss. There is a certain point where I had to decide what this all meant and where everybody was going and why they had been here for such a short amount of time. I told her that I didn't think that her Grandfather was any longer in that body in the church, he was definately somewhere else. Maybe near or maybe already far away. He was seventy seven when he left us so he had a long life on this earth. More importantly I was sure that wherever he was now he was no longer suffering from the cancer that had eaten his human body.
The church and cemetery where he was being buried was on a beautiful hilltop above Viareggio. It was a sunny day and you could see the light shining on the water below. Evan was still sleeping in his pajama in the back seat so I waited outside the church during the funeral ceremony. He woke up just in time for the walk from the church to the cemetery. In this small hilltop village they still have the tradition of a few unknown women inserted in the crowd that sing or recite the rosary on the way to the cemetery. Grandma Elsa, eighty seven years old, rather loudly requested that these ladies NOT attend her funeral. The cemetery was filled with plots of people that had died twenty, thirty, fifty years before. I thought about how I believed that none of those people were really present anymore. Just bones, and I don't mean that in a disrepectful way. My brother had mentioned in passing conversation just a few weeks before his death that if he ever died he wanted to be cremated. I'm glad we were able to do that for him. It really gave me the conviction that we are not our bodies, that they are just vehicles for this voyage in life.
After all was said and done we went back down to Viareggio. Olly went to spend a few hours with her Grandmother, Evan and I went to the port and beach to spend some time playing on the sand and look at the boats. This is the town where I did my very first Olympic Triathlon in 1996 and it's where I will be doing my first sprint Triathlon for the 2007 season in six weeks.
While I was playing with Evan I was imagining my swim and...imaging my swim. Didn't really think about the bike and run...I guess I'll just be happy to be in the water again. I know these two thoughts don't go together too well, funerals and triathlons, but that's kinda how the day went!


anji said...

Sounds like you've been through the ringer lately!

I hope you have a bit of time to get grounded again... how is that "flat" feeling? Any better?

Are you still going to the US this summer?

jbmmommy said...

Sorry that you've dealt with so much loss, although I guess it's made you the person that you are today. Sometimes thoughts that don't seem to go together are just what we need to get us through.