Granddad was going about the business of “passing on” and it was turning out to be a painful, unpleasant experience.  His foot had gone gangrenous and the decay was starting to work its inexorable way up his leg.  At some point, I stopped being carted along to the cavernous ward at Toronto General Hospital.  Until that time I was a comforting reminder that life carried on and the generations were secure.  I gawked at the empty space where his right leg once propped the sheets, now just a flattened ghost, but the disease marched on.   It was generally agreed that his screams were becoming too traumatizing for my tender years and so I stayed behind, alone or in the care of my sister.
Arterial sclerosis was not a common phrase at that time.  Hardening of the arteries was what took Granddad down.  The debt he accumulated in his early years inhaling the black mine dust far beneath the bleak hills of Fife and his lifelong penchant for coarse, home-rolled cigarettes was finally being called in.  It all came due at once and it was fearsome.  I didn’t fear tobacco then, hardly anyone did, but over time it squeezed the blood from his extremities and left them cold to rot.     
I was a newly minted 15-year-old with little experience in the reality of death or the complicated process of dying.  All the accoutrements of life’s end were about to be revealed and they proved to be no big deal.  Familiarity breeds,, well, familiarity.
The great revelation was seeing tears well up in my mother’s eyes at odd times.  I had never seen her helpless before.  I had seen her mad.  I had seen her sad.  And happy as a schoolgirl.  But never helpless.  That’s when the tears appeared.  I asked her the day of the funeral if she was going to be OK?  She told me that there was going to be some crying, but it would be all right.
Ultimately the whole show was mystifying and satisfying.  It fulfilled a great need.  The great mystery lay in the transition from animate to inanimate, somebody to just plain body.  That’s a hard one to grasp the first few times you stumble over it.  Satisfaction lay in the forms and rituals.  

Knowing that there was going to be some crying and that it was going to be all right, that was the most valuable lesson, the one I remember best.

Lesson #16 – There’s Going To Be Some Crying

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