A few weeks ago I received a call from my Mum - one that I had been both dreading and hoping for for weeks. "Grandad died last night" she told me. I doubled over, finding a seat as my legs struggled to keep me upright. I knew it was coming, I had expected to feel relieved, glad that he wasn't in pain anymore. Instead I felt overwhelmed by a deep sadness in the pit of my stomach, it hurt.
Grandad was nearly 90 - I'm nearly 40. We shared a birthday. I had joked that if he made it to 90 I'd throw us a big party, "If I do, will you bring me some women?" he asked, raising one eyebrow with that twinkle that could so often be seen in his eyes, "Then I'll be there!"
As word got around and friends got in touch, I found myself saying "He was old", "He'd had a good life, he was ready to die", while others pointed out that he wasn't in pain anymore and how lucky I was to have had him in my life until I was almost 40! These are the things we tell ourselves and others to feel better.
Grandad's death wasn't a life interrupted, it wasn't a tragic loss. It was exactly in keeping with what is supposed to happen. All of this is true. But I still find myself crying in the kitchen when I hear a song that reminds me of him, and being knocked sideways all over again by his death. And what I've come to realise is that I have felt a bit silly for this, I have felt I'm being overly dramatic for missing him because I keep hearing myself and others trying to soothe me, "he was old, he had a good life",
But you see, although all of the above statements are true, they aren't complete. They only tell part of the story.
"He was old" - Yes, he was, and because of this I had had more time to know him and to love him, so the hole he leaves is big, and impossible to fill.
"He had a good life" - He did, and because of this he leaves so many stories, memories and so much love behind. There are reminders of him everywhere.
"He is no longer in pain, he was ready to die" - That he is no longer in pain, that he wasn't frightened of dying gives me so much comfort, but I wasn't ready for him to go and I'm not sure I ever will be.
We must give ourselves permission to grieve, to mourn, to feel what we feel. Unspent emotions are held in our body like ticking time-bombs waiting to explode.
So when I hear Bob Dylan crooning unexpectedly on the radio, or remember that I won't ever make him a cheese and onion pie again; when I hear his voice out of the blue telling me he loves me, and see his face smiling and winking with that sparkle in his eye, I won't tell myself "It was for the best, he had a good life, he was old", instead I'll cry. I'll allow myself to miss him and acknowledge the hole that he has left in my life, and the life of so many others, because this is the cost of loving, and it is worth every tear.