Home > Uncategorized > Because today I stopped for Death

Because today I stopped for Death

I’ve never been a fan of Emily Dickinson but whenever my life stumbles over a death, I always think of her poem “Because I could not stop for Death.”

The Husband’s grandmother died Thursday night. She was a quiet woman and I really don’t know much about her, despite being married to her grandson for nine years. I know that she was married at the age of 18 to her high school sweetheart in late November of 19 and he shipped off to war just a few days later. Every year, for an anniversary gift, he bought her a very natty suit that she wore to ever Thanksgiving celebration I attended with her. She was born in January and loved her birthstone, garnets, and had a lovely set that she recently gave to my daughter, who shares her birthstone. She made shortbread every Christmas and handed it out in one-pound blocks to family members. The Husband could eat all of his in one sitting. She liked dolls and teddy bears, and, until very recently, never spent a night apart from her husband once he returned from WWII.

She loved her husband, despite the fact the he is what polite people call “a pistol.” He is devoted to her, still.

We’ve spent the past four days arranging our lives around this death, as we do around any family death. It’s why the poem always crops up. This is one of the only life events that you just can’t plan for — at least not often or very well. Life proceeds along and then suddenly, someone isn’t with you any more. And instead of dealing with that fact, we deal with all the … furniture around the fact. When is the wake, where is the funeral, who’s going to the internment? Flower or donations? Does anyone need hugging, cooking, hauling, help? Who can be spared to take care of The Child during the funeral? The widower has requested that The Child attend the wake — it’s open casket, can we refuse? Should we refuse? What does a three-year-old wear to a wake? Does my black dress still fit me? Can I wear my strappy heels in mid-May?

There’s been no time to think about the fact that a woman has died.

We’ve got a lifetime of that ahead, I suppose. A lifetime without this woman, my mother-in-law’s mother, my daughter’s great grandmother. She was exceptionally lucky — she has known all four of her great grandparents.

I feel like I should be ashamed to admit that this death doesn’t change our lives, once the funeral is over. We saw her at holidays, sometimes, and sent her cards when we couldn’t. I imagine that her husband won’t be long for this world, either. Despite being a “pistol” (or, you know, jerk), he is utterly devoted to his wife and I suspect that he will die of a broken heart very soon. The family was going to skip the wake but he insisted because, “she was a beautiful woman and people will want to see her to say goodbye.”

That was so sweet it broke my heart a little.

We knew this was coming, in the abstract. She’s been ill for years, small strokes, congestive heart failure, dementia. And it’s almost a blessing, really, since she was so unhappy at the end. And she died, quietly, in her bed, asleep. What more could a woman want?

But I wish I’d gotten The Child down to see her one last time.

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