It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Last Tuesday night, Sarah’s grandmother Eleanore passed away. This was just a few days after she wrote that lovely post about the passing of my grandmother and the slow decline of her own. And yet, the grandmother she was writing about in the post, Ruth, wasn’t the grandmother who died. After years of suffering the debilitating costs of Alzheimer’s, Sarah’s mom’s mom Eleanore took a sudden downturn in physical health, and died sooner than we expected.
And then, just two days later, as one half of Sarah’s extended family was mourning and making funeral preparations for Eleanore, the other half was learning that their own matriarch, Ruth, had finally succumbed.
Losing one grandmother is tough enough. Losing two in one week is a stunning breach of karmic fairness. Losing three between the two of us in the span of three weeks can start to seem like some kind of cosmic joke. Between the two of us, we’re now entirely grandparent-less.
Remarkably, through all of this, Sarah had the fortitude to stand up and eulogize at both funerals — speaking eloquently for all the grandchildren about what it meant to be one of Eleanore’s ten or Ruth’s five grandchildren. She spoke with grace and charm, paying honor to both grandparents’ memory through sweet, touching and sometimes humorous anecdotes. My interaction with Eleanore was very limited over the four years Sarah and I have known each other, but through all the lovely eulogoies — Sarah’s especially — I was able to understand all the pleasures I’d missed.
The crux of both eulogies — and in fact, the crux of our feelings right now — is the fundamental emotional shift involved in moving up a generation. We’re both feeling it. A few weeks ago, we were the third generation; no matter how old we were, we still had grandparents. Now, with those grandparents alive in only memories, we’re representing the second generation — the spot in which our parents belong, but which they’ve vacated for their new positions of leadership. This is a scary, frightening, awesome and intimidating prospect. We accept it — but only with copious amounts of humility. May it be another thirty years at least before we have to move up again.