Taking the full measure of life

And Just Like That

September 12th, 2009 · 16 Comments

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My mother’s voice cracked as she said, “Your father is moving out for a while.”

My mother stood in the doorway of my Spanish class with a packet that said, “Congratulations! We are pleased to admit you to the class of 2002.”

My ATM balance print-out read, “$ -362.00.”

My professor said, “This paper is graduate-school-level work.”

My boyfriend cried and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

My roommate ran into our dorm room and said, “A plane hit the World Trade Center!”

My doctor stood at my bedside and said, “We found cancer, but we don’t have further results back yet.”

The bill in my hands read, “Your insurance has denied your claim for a CT scan.”

The lettering on top of the lit birthday cake my boyfriend was holding read, “Will you marry me?”

The letterhead stationery in my hands read, “Congratulations! We are pleased to admit you to Cohort 8.”

My editor said, “This is just the kind of writing we’re looking for.”

The phone rang, and my mother said, “We don’t expect your grandmother to live more than another day or two.”

Grandma died last week.  A few weeks earlier, she had been living independently still—at the age of 94.  I know that means she had a long life.  I’m certain her life was good in many ways.  It was also complicated and difficult in many ways.  That’s the way of life: we don’t get off easy, period, individually or collectively. Grandma was proof that relative ease isn’t what always creates longevity and that major adversity doesn’t always mean a short lifetime of sorrow.  I don’t know what it all means, ultimately, the combination of joy and suffering and everything in between, but I do know that in many ways, Grandma was a model to follow on how to live through it all—with measures of grace, stubbornness, and thoughtfulness, and with deep faith in what is yet to come.

Tags: sturm and drang

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jeremy // Sep 12, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I am sure your grandmother was very proud to have a granddaughter like you.

  • 2 Hannah Handpainted // Sep 12, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    Very true, Sally.

    I’m sad for you, though…and I know there’s a lot going on. But as your post points out I guess that’s always the case for everyone.

    Tiredly and Friendishly Yours,

  • 3 Lauren // Sep 13, 2009 at 8:51 am

    I’m sorry for your loss. Our lives always change in the most unexpected ways.

  • 4 Terri // Sep 13, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    I’m so sorry sweetie. I know it is hard 🙁 *hugs*

  • 5 Liz // Sep 15, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss Sally. Ditto to Jeremy’s comment: I am sure she was proud to have you as her granddaughter.

  • 6 Linda // Sep 15, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    I’m so sorry to read about your loss. Your posting rings so true–life is change.

  • 7 Laura // Sep 19, 2009 at 7:02 am


    I am so sorry for your loss. Your grandmother sounds like an inspiration, and it is clear that her spirit for life lives strong in you. What you said about joy and suffering coexisting is right on…. do you know Rumi’s poem “Birdwings”?

    Sending you lots of hugs as you grieve….

  • 8 Cheryl // Sep 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

    lots of love to you and your family as you honor your grandmother’s life and legacy.

  • 9 Vegetation // Sep 20, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I’m sorry you lost your Grandmother. It’s always hard to lose a loved one 🙁

  • 10 Kimberly@Living Free // Sep 21, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Sorry about the loss of your dear Grandmother.

  • 11 emiglia // Sep 23, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I know how hard losing a grandparent can be. I know that this probably isn’t the appropriate time for this, but I also just wanted to say that the way that you wrote this post really struck a chord with me… I really admire your style.

  • 12 Meg Wolff // Sep 28, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Hi Sally,

    You spelled out perfectly the beauty and the anguish of life, the whole kit and caboodle. (I always hope in the end they’ll be more checks than minuses.)

    Sorry about your grandmother. It is hard to lose our loved ones. Sending hugs.

  • 13 Carma // Sep 29, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother. It sounds like she would get along wonderfully with my beloved maternal grandmother with that personality.
    Life, one person told me, is lived in the dash. I am sure your grandmother loved having you in her dash.

  • 14 Amanda // Oct 8, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    I’m so sorry. Belatedly, but I think (hope) I told you before too. 🙁

  • 15 Frugal Expat in Abu Dhabi // Oct 18, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Hi.. first thing, so sorry to hear about your grandmother.

    It is my first time here and find your site very interesting.

  • 16 Kirsten // Nov 5, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    I haven’t been keeping up with your blog like I should be, and I totally missed this post – I just wanted to say I’m sorry to hear about your grandma. This whole post was intense – I just love your writing. I’m sure your grandma was SO PROUD of you!

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