“Don’t cry, sweetie, Nana’s gone to a better place. She’s happy and she’s not in pain anymore.”
Don’t lie to me.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate your concern. I appreciate the fact that you’re trying to shield me from the harsh truth. And I appreciate the fact that you need to believe what you’re telling me, and that a part of me needs to believe it too. But the truth is easier to believe. And I’m at an age that I need to be trusted enough to hear the truth.
I can handle it.
My grandma died on Halloween. My mom got a call that morning, when my brother and I were getting ready. I didn’t even notice that she didn’t come down to see us off to school. My dad came down instead, his face giving nothing away.
That Halloween passed like any other. Since my brother and I were out with our friends for the whole night, we didn’t notice that mom had seemed quieter than usual. Had seemed less energetic, and had lost a spark in her eyes. Looking back now, I marvel at how my mom pulled herself together and put on a brave face for my brother and me.
In retrospect, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. We had gone to my aunt’s house to see my Nana just two weeks ago. My mom told me that I should say goodbye, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. The Nana I saw lying on the bed, surrounded by tubes and an oxygen mask, wasn’t the Nana I knew who laughed when she beat me in Go Fish. I couldn’t say goodbye because the Nana I knew was already gone.
She told us on November 2.
We were in the living room and my mom looked over at my brother and me. I looked into her face, really looked into it, and I knew what was coming. I knew something had happened, and my brain made the connection that my heart wouldn’t believe. She told us that Nana had died. She started crying before she could say anything else. I started crying before I could say anything. But it didn’t cross my mind to ask her when it had happened.
It didn’t occur to me that she could or would hide something so important.
I didn’t learn until later that day that my Nana had died two days ago. And I hadn’t even noticed. This was my first real experience with death. I had expected something to happen. Something to mark the passing of my Nana.
But I couldn’t bring myself to be angry with my mom.
I understood, even if I didn’t like it, why she had withheld that information. I knew that I would have been a mess and I would have hated Halloween. I knew that she needed her time as well. She needed a few uninterrupted days to mourn on her own before she could deal with my grief.
Which left me angry with myself.
I wanted to be strong enough to handle the truth. I couldn’t bear the sympathy cards and the neighbors with their smiles. I needed someone to sit with me and say, “Your Nana died. It sucks, but it happened. It’s ok to be sad, even angry, but that doesn’t change anything.” I just needed the truth. I just needed someone to trust me enough to tell me the truth.