Five years ago in August, my Oma, my mother’s mother, passed peacefully beyond the veil.
She had been sick for 4 years at that point. They didn’t find out it was leukemia until the only option was palliative care. Moving into hospice care was really astounding for her — here she could ask for pain relief, and she would receive it. Finally, after four years of hell — after four years of asking us to help end her life — she could be in peace, pain-free, in her final days.
I don’t actually remember the exact day she died. It was a whirlwind few days of getting the call, packing a bag, rushing to make the last ferry, driving down to Nanaimo, catching the early morning ferry the next day after a couple hours sleep on my couch at the place I was set to inhabit as soon as I could leave mom’s place, where I’d been watching things while she spent time with her mother at the hospice — all so I could see Oma’s body, and say goodbye before she was cremated.
Death isn’t real to me until I’ve seen the body. It was true when Blue died, and it was true for Oma too.
The grief came in waves, weirdly hitting me at inappropriate times. The truth was, we’d been grieving her for four years already. She’d come so close to Death’s door so many times in those years that we weren’t really convinced it had actually happened when it finally did. The Thanksgiving after we sat, sadly with Opa around the table, and I kept expecting Oma to wander down the hall in her short-stepped walk, remarking on the good smells from the kitchen, and how lucky she was to have a daughter who would cook for her.
I still sometimes expect to hear her voice in a phone call. And today, I got the urge to call her and wish her “Happy birthday, Oma!” She would have been 98.
In her final hours, she kept asking my mom if she’d been a good person; if Mom thought she would get into heaven. We didn’t really realize how deep her religious streak went, as she’d sort of removed herself from religious identity once she met Opa (a staunch anti-theist). “Of course you will, Mam, of course,” Mom replied, and she was 100% honest. We both believe that. Whatever the afterlife holds for our non-Protestant souls, if there even is one, we truly believe Oma made her way into heaven, and that she truly deserves the happiness that afterlife brings her.
Whatever your heaven is like, Oma, may it have lots of chocolate and books (including mine, which was published a year too late for you to see it — I know you’d be proud). May you be able to keep up on the achievements of your loved ones, and may you stick your chest out with pride in that way we always found incredibly embarrassing but also very endearing. May your pains, physical and emotional, be eased; may you be reunited with those you lost. May you sit with Gerry and Jake and Gerry’s first wife and Ariel and play Scrabble or Mah Jongg, and may the rules be adjusted so everyone can have a good time; may you laugh and talk about your long lives together, and apart, and may all jealousies be eased; may death bring friendship in unlikely places. May you be greeted by Ariel and Jake when you arrive, and may you get as many chances as you need to tell your daughter how much she means to you; may you get as many chances as you need to tell Jake everything you wanted him to know.
And if your other loved ones get different afterlives, may there be a good transit system so you can all visit each other.
I love you, Oma. I will never stop missing you, or thinking about you. I hope you know that, and I hope you know how much you inspired me, and how I wouldn’t be as successful as I am if it weren’t for you.
For you, Oma, on today, your birthday, your Ancestor Day — for you, I say my prayers to my Lord Manannan, that you are watched over and loved, and kept cherished and safe, in death as we tried to for you in life.