25 years ago, my grandfather (on my father’s side) passed away. Along with my grandmother, they were storybook grandparents. Giving and warm, playful and supportive. I describe them as the only two people with which I’ve never shared a cross word.
After my grandfather passed, having struggled with lung cancer even though he’s given up smoking decades ago, my grandmother, though obviously sad, remarked that she was grateful when he had finally passed. “He wasn’t the man I once knew, but a ghost of his former self,” she said. How he was in his final weeks wasn’t the person she wanted to remember. She knew he was in a better place. Since she said that, I’ve believed that as well as it relates to losing those whose time has come. Tragedies are something else altogether.
Upon discovering the Buddhist way of thinking that death is just part of the path we must take, my grandmother’s words became more and more a reality in my grieving process. I often thought that I avoided the feelings I really had; masking them with this idea about a better place, but it’s what I truly feel. Even thinking about whether I do mask my feelings, it may just be a way for me to cope when it does happen. We all deal with grief in different ways. I like to think that my view is the positive way of looking at things, but I don’t know for sure.
I once lost a young friend to a rare disease and upon being told I didn’t seem to be upset about it, I said, “I am not upset. Sad, yes, but he knew how I felt about him and I knew his feelings. He was very sick and now he is at peace. We knew at a certain point that he would not recover and he is no longer in pain. He is in a better place.” I miss that friend, but he’s watching and I know he is no longer in pain.
When my grandmother passed away three years ago, she was a ghost of her formal self. I knew she was in a better place, looking down upon me knowing what I was thinking. Knowing what I truly believed. I feel closer to her than I ever have because I feel like she is with me.
This is for Tony Bordonaro, he passed away yesterday at the age of 92. He lived across the street. In the summers he gave me produce from the garden that he struggled to tend and in the winter I made sure his sidewalk was shoveled, much to his dismay as he could no longer shovel it. I’m sad, yes, but having been in pain for his last days, I know he is in a better place. I know he is somewhere doing all his own chores and expounding his opinions to his wife. He’s growing grapes for his home made wine and walking around outside in the sun without his shirt.
One day I’ll see Tony again… In a better place.