Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In Memoriam

It was hard to get back to TKD yesterday. Not only did I miss Saturday's TKD class, I was out of town, being someone other than the Tae Kwon Do Mom. I flew back to Cleveland to see my parents, and while I was there, was fulfilling my roles of daughter, granddaughter, aunt, sister, niece, and cousin.

I think I was having trouble making that shift back to being Tae Kwon Do Mom.

I'd bought the plane tickets a few weeks ago, and I'm glad I did. On September 30, my grandmother passed away at the age of 102. I wasn't able to be there for the funeral, but got there the next day. I visited the gravesite with my aunt, cousin, and niece, and got to spend time with other cousins, aunts, and uncles.

When someone dies at the age of 102, the death isn't unexpected; it's more like closure. And for my grandmother, who had suffered from dementia in the last year of her life, and who'd contracted a severe case of shingles in the last weeks, it was even merciful.

We all had some measure of comfort from remembering my strong-willed and practical Grandmother, who grew tomatoes and green beans in the back yard, who made quilts from scraps, who never learned to drive (she walked where she needed to go), and who lived in her home until she was 100.

Still, facing death and loss is hard. And though I enjoyed seeing my parents (I always do! They are wonderful people with whom I'd be friends even if I weren't related), they are not in very good health, and every visit reminds me of how difficult their lives can sometimes be, especially for my mom, who's confined to a wheelchair.

Perhaps watching the aging process of those I love--sped by illness and medical crises sometimes--is one thing that spurs me on in Tae Kwon Do and ballet.

When you're younger--20, 30--you don't think so much about . . . well, mortality. You conveniently forget that "everyone has an expiration date," as my friend Karen says. It's easy to think "well, I'll get in shape when I have more time," or "someday I'd like to learn martial arts" or "It would be cool to learn to dance en pointe."

Seeing those around you face illness and death--especially when you're at the midpoint of the life expectancy!--are kind of a wake-up call. Hey, do it now!

So I did it--I went to class last night, despite a haze of exhaustion and sadness and feeling like I was in two places at once. It was what I needed to do. I think my grandmother would have understood.

1 comment:

TKD Rocker said...

I'm sorry for your loss. And I understand where you're coming from. In 2005, my friend from school passed away unexpectedly. The fact that he was only 14 and that we weren't expecting his death really put life into perspective for me. Of course there was the pain and grief for the first few months (and there always will be a little), but the most important thing I learned from Scott was not to take anything for granted, because it could be gone in the next instant. I'll be praying for you and your family.