Continuation of previous blog.
Thursday, October 6, 2005

The second time it happened was a few years ago, actually. It was with my Grandma Fran. Of the two gma's I had, she was my favorite of the two. She was really into movies, she was friendly and funny and warm. Everything you want a grandma to be. And she was also a chainsmoker. She went in for a checkup at the hospital, and she didn't come out. She had lung cancer and brain tumors. She only had a few months, if any at all. I only saw her twice when she was in the hospital and she looked bad. I was still able to talk to her and tell her all my feelings. All of us did, so there wasn't that sense of "I'll never get to tell her how I feel". It was a few months later that I think I got a phone call or my brother Matt told me that she had died, and I didn't like bawl or do anything theatrical. Instead, I was a bit ambivalent to it. I mean, it was inevitable, so it didn't hit me or anything. This was just a confirmation. And I think at the end of April was when we had the service. Her body was already cremated, and so the whole family came to bury her ashes. They said that we could leave some stuff with her, so I wrote sort of a final letter to her with some dialogue from an ep of SIX FEET UNDER about death, where this one character asked "Why do we have to die?", as well as a toonie (a two dollar coin, for those unfamiliar with Canadian currency) as to pay the ferryman. I don't remember if anyone else did that, but I felt like someone had to do it, so I did. After the service, I kinda walked around in a daze through the graveyard with U2's "Kite" playing in my head. But the one thing I remember the most was seeing my Grandpa Maynard cry. I had never seen him cry before, so it really struck me then that she really was gone.

That one comment that Joss made in the commentary track for "The Body" ep about how we fantasize/deny the death during that early process actually happened. My mom was the first one of our family to actually see my gma's body. The nurse had called her to tell the fam that she was dead. And the nurses wern't supposed to touch her before my mom got there. And when my mom got there, when she saw the body, she though "Well that nurse was an idiot. She's not dead. She's asleep." Her body was positioned so that she looked like she was sleeping, and not dead. But then it hit her that she actually was gone.

A year later, my Mom and I went up to Unity (small town where they lived), since everyone was there to go through the house, because he was selling it. In a year, he had met another widow and got married that weekend. And so most of my mom's side of the family were there to go through the house to see if there was anything that we wanted. I went through their vinyl collection, and the only thing I found of interest was a Simon and Garfunkel album and a The Who album. My cousin got The Who, and I got S and G, as well as some books off my gpa's shelf and a magnifying glass. And when we were driving home with the truck full of furniture, my mom told me how my gma and gpa actually were. And it was a toxic relationship. How my gma was just miserable living in Unity. And how this dent in their kitchen sink was created when during an arguement that was so heated, my gpa threw a coffee mug into the sink hard enough to make that dent. And how my Aunt Joyce, who was the youngest of my Mom's siblings would be caught in the middle of it and how she's call my mom or my Aunt Joan just sobbing in a phone booth. That weekend was the hardest on Joyce actually. She was a complete wreck the entire weekend (I actually walked in on her when she was crying and was weirded out by the whole thing).

And then today, I was talking to my mom about this (I made sure to tell her that I loved her), and she told me some stuff I hadn't heard before about all this. She said that me and my brother actually brought the best out of her. That she was better to me and Matt then she ever was to my mom. This, as well as the knowledge of how toxic of a family situation my mom lived with, really startled me. Even though I have this info, I still can't for the life of me think of my grandma Fran other than the sweetest, kindest old lady I ever knew. It's impossible for me to think of her as a ball buster, though it does kind of explain how my mom's a ball buster and why my Aunt Joyce is a bit more high strung than usual.

But my mom and my gpa did have some closure from her. When she was in the hospital and my mom and my gpa were there on a daily basis taking care of her, there was one point where she looked into my mom and gpa's eyes very clearly, and said "I'm glad you're here." And it really was all the closure they needed.

That was how I had dealt with death in my family. As an amateur videographer, it actually came up twice. My first thing that I was hired to do a video was a grad video for the grade below me in my old hometown. And one of the gals in that class, Valerie Singbeil, her dad had died three years earlier because of cancer. And I had wanted to bring that up. Because she was graduating and about to end one chapter and start another, I figured she would be thinking about her dad. And I was definitly going to treat the thing with reverence and dignity and not try to exploit it at all. But after talking with Bobby (her cousin and another classmate that was graduating that year as well), I decided just to drop the whole thing. That it wasn't necessary for the vid and too sensitive of a topic to bring up. The only time I did actually reference it was when during her bio speech the MC was giving about how she was going into nursing because she was inspired how the nurses had taken care of her father, I did a subtle zoom in on her face as it was being said to get her expression as she was thinking about it.

And the second time was during one of my weddings. It was a disaster wedding (the bride ended up asking me to leave before the night was over and she asked for a full refund, although to be fair, she was an abrasive Bridezilla). And one of the things she wanted me to focus on was her dad. He was only going to be at the wedding, because he had to go back to Wascana Rehab, because he had a brain tumor or something like that. He had lasted longer then they had expected, and she really wanted a lot of footage of her dad. And I had wanted to do a montage of his footage edited to R.E.M's "Everybody Hurts". I wanted a song that wasn't peppy, which would be disrespectful, that dealt with death, but in a hopeful way. But this song suggesting ended up angering her. I was only trying to be respectful to her dad and to treat his experience of the day with dignity and diligence, but I guess she and her mom was too sensitive to the whole thing, and I think any suggestion would have just set them off.

So it's a real tough thing where you're dealing with death, especially if you're there to document the thing. How close do you get? Where's the line betwen respectful and disrespectful? Would I be able to handle it with dignity the next time it happens? I don't know.

So these are just the thoughts and experiences I recalled after I saw "The Body". I can't say that I totally understand what the characters were going through, because I don't think it has happened to me yet. But it did make me think about death and move in a way that I don't think I'll be able to shake off for a while.

I realize that maybe no one will respond to these two blogs, but I would like some people to comment on how they were impacted when they saw "The Body" and their dealings with death.



Friday, October 7, 2005 4:21 AM


My memory from seeing "The Body": I don't think I breathed for several minutes. It hurt. It was so sudden (because I saw it on TV and hadn't been spoiled by the rumours so it came out of nowhere.) I remember feeling so uncomfortable during that flash scene where Buffy calls 911 and they save her mom and everything's okay because it was just too much too fast and it was almost a relief when it flashed back to the stillness of the body.
A year and a half ago my grandmother died. It was sudden for me because no one had told me that she'd been hospitalized, though she'd been sick for awhile. And then her husband, my grandfather, killed himself nearly a year later, just this past March. Both deaths still feel like open wounds to me. I miss them every day. I was fortunate in that both times when I got the news I was in a church. I can't separate that spiritual comfort I received from being at a place that makes me feel safe and at home from the physical I received from the people that were around me.
I think I respond to death a lot like Jayne. It makes me feel alone. I want to feel a part of something, I need to be touched. I need to keep busy and have purpose because it hurts to stop moving and then I get overwhelmed with emptiness.
Another thought I had while reading your blogs. Death brings the truth to the surface. You learned about your g'rents struggling marriage and your mother's childhood. When my g'rents died, I learned so many secrets, so many things that had been hidden from us while they were alive. They were probably trying to protect us from the truth, but all they did was delay it awhile.
I think I'm going to go have a cry now.


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