Dealing with death

I have just finished editing the eulogy for my grandfather’s funeral. I also wrote a poem – which, in a small way, has helped me to deal with the part of me that has died along with him. I have decided to share this poem, and the one I wrote for my father, on this blog under the other writing tab.

Anyway, as I was writing, tears were streaming down my face, to the point where I could not see the computer screen. I got up and went into the kitchen to compose myself. Geordie came and stood right next to me. Just stood there – close. He knew. In fact, he is the only person who really knows how to comfort me.

I had planned to write about how Geordie deals with death in a much later posting, but this recent event has made it so much more relevant to do it now.

Geordie’s first experience of a death was when his dog, Pearl, passed away. Geordie was only 5; we were relatively new to the Asperger’s diagnosis and had no idea what to say or how to help him cope.

We needn’t have worried.

He gave her a pat, commented that she was cold and asked where she would be buried. To some, this may seem callous, but he was sad and still talks about Pearl. It was just his way of dealing with it.

My Dad and Geordie on the Bungendore train in 2007
My Dad and Geordie on the Bungendore train in 2007

Then, three years ago, my father passed away. Geordie and Dad were really close.  Dad called him his ‘little mate’. He ‘got’ Geordie, and Geordie knew this. Dad’s passing was expected, he had mesothelioma, but unexpected. He died the day before Geordie’s birthday.

Again, Geordie was sad. He wondered aloud why ‘Pop died just before my birthday’, then commented ‘It would have been worse if he’d died on my birthday.’ Geordie’s Asperger’s makes him always practical, always logical. But, perhaps unusually for a child on the spectrum, he is also extremely aware of my emotions. After Dad died, Geordie would spend time just sitting close to me and would look deep into my eyes, something he doesn’t normally do. If my eyes weren’t sad, he would smile and go on his way. If they were sad, he would cuddle closer. Once, he put Fifi on my lap. This was the only time Fifi has ever been involved in dealing with a death – and he was there for me.

Now, just last week, on September 19, we got a call to inform us that my grandfather had passed away in his sleep. He had begun developing Alzheimer’s about five years ago and as his behaviours become less predictable Geordie started pulling away, not sure how to react. In fact, I often watched Geordie staring at Pop, searching for the man that he used to know and be so close to.

So, when I told him, I could see in his eyes that he was sad, but he said nothing, just nodded. He still hasn’t said anything.

At Dad’s funeral, Geordie stayed close to me and watched me like a hawk. I know he will do the same at Pop’s funeral.

What have I learnt from this?

Everyone deals with grief and death in their own way. Geordie’s way is to acknowledge it, name it and get on with it. Maybe this is the Asperger’s speaking and maybe it’s not. However, whatever it is, I am glad that I chose not to hide difficult emotions from Geordie. This was not an easy choice, and may have backfired, but for Geordie, with his Asperger’s, it has worked.

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