September 2012 in Review
Right Now

Grief is a Conglomerate Stone

I’m not sure where I saw the photo—a scrapbook layout somewhere, maybe, or on Pinterest, or maybe in a magazine ad. A three-generation photo, nothing unusual, but it sparked something in me, a memory that I once took a four-generation picture of Kendell and his daughter with his mom and his grandma, a realization that it would be nice to have a three-generation picture, a whole series of them in fact, Kendell and his mom and each of his kids.

When she's recuperated from her surgery, I told myself. Then I'll take them. When she's feeling pretty and confident again, despite the missing body parts, but before she starts the chemo.

And that is how death tricked me, by letting me think I’d have more time, a future that included (among so many other moments I didn’t even imagine yet) a photo shoot that would have been unbearably frustrating (one husband who hates having his picture taken, one teenaged son who does, too) but rewarding, too, in the end. Processing the photos, having them printed, giving some to my mother-in-law Beth, who would’ve hung some on her fridge and scrapbooked the rest.

But I didn’t take those pictures yet

was, ridiculously, one of the first thoughts I had when Kendell called to choke out the words "she’s gone."

But tomorrow is her birthday and we were going to take her to Red Lobster for lunch to celebrate

She can’t be dead because I just took her some library books on Saturday

I also thought.

And someone made a mistake and they just need to fix it and then she’ll be OK.

Of course, none of those thoughts hold back death. My mind’s inability to accept it: here/not here—despite its unbearable inescapability, here it is, another grandparent gone.

And I could tell the story about her death, how she’d done so well with her mastectomy a month ago, sailed through with no complications, and how she was trying to decide if she’d have chemo or not. How the heart attack seemed to come out of the blue, how her daughter was with her and gave her CPR and called 911 and did everything she could and how it wasn’t enough and Beth just did not make it.

But the other story is what I am in now. That inability to know it is true, because when we walked into her house it still smelled like her and so it seemed like she was just in the other room. Having to share that inability with each of my kids, who loved her in different ways, and how my grief grew because of their grief, a breccia lodged in my rib cage. How they don’t know it yet, the hundred thousand moments they won’t get to have with her: no Grandma Beth at weddings or baby showers or random Sunday afternoons hanging out on her couch. No three-generation photograph, but this isn’t about pictures. It’s not even about death. It’s about sorrow, right now. It’s about grief and how we are in it and how it is the only thing left that binds each of us to each. And how there is that whisper, which my kids can barely hear but which is loud in my ears: it is Margaret you're grieving.

(For my mother-in-law Beth, who passed away at 10:30 on Tuesday night.)



Oh Amy, I am so so sorry. Losing our well-loved family members is THE HARDEST part of this life. After the grief comes the sweet memories to bind you together, but that's not much comfort right now. I offer you e-hugs, a heart that is sad for you and Kendell, and prayers that your grief will be softened and eased away.


I'm so sorry for your family's loss and sorrow. Hug.


I am so sorry.

Becky K

I am so sad for you and Kendell and everyone. Lots of hugs. I don't think there is ever a time when we lose someone that we don't wish we could have done ______. We never have enough time with the ones we love.

So sorry for your loss. Love you lots!

Nancy McMahon

Amy, I am so sorry for you & your families' loss.


Amy, I am so sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.


Like those before me, I am sorry for your loss. This post took me straight to my grandmother's house just a day after she passed. I could smell her, feel her, and sensed her presence with me as I do at this very moment. Thank you for bringing that back to me.

Wishing you the very best during this difficult time.


Nathan told me yesterday when I saw he and Haley at the region race. Your famlly has had so much loss lately. I'm so sorry. Kendell is so young to have lost both parents. I hope he will let you all love him through it. love you.


So sorry for your loss and thinking of you and your family.


I'm so sorry, Amy. My grandma had a heart attack in the midst of some very hopeful treatment for cancer when I was 13, and it was not only a shock but such a loss—for all the reasons you say. No easy way for you to shepherd your family through it. Will be thinking of you : (

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