Breaking the silence, with grief

Tonight I received a call, it was news of my grandfather’s death. All I remember hearing is that he had passed peacefully and painlessly and after that it all just went straight over me. After I’d hung up, all I felt was emptiness, no anger, no pain, I couldn’t bring tears to my eyes, I just felt nothing. I had been expecting the call since the start of the week when we were told he only had a few days left with us, and that caused me more grief than the news of his passing, it’s funny how our minds work.

I was incredibly close with my grandfather, or Dida as we called him (Croatian for grandfather), which was weird considering that I spent so much of my life growing up with little connection with him. His poor hearing meant that phone calls weren’t possible and we lived in England, he in New Zealand,  so for 18 years, the connection was weak at best. Yet when I arrived here, we had such a close connection and understanding of each other that it was like we had always been close. Even with his hearing troubles and my softer voice, he nearly always understood me, and I him. In the later years of his illness, he let me help him with all sorts of things, things a proud man like himself could struggle with, but that he never showed any fear of. The simplest way I can explain it is that we could and have sat for considerable lengths of time alone in the same room together, not talking and doing absolutely nothing, but it made me feel so comfortable to do that and I felt like we still completely understood each other in those moments, I am yet to experience that with anyone else.

People who have met both of us say there are similarities between us, I can only ever take that as a complement. The air of calm, peace and content that he carried with him was always such a joy to be around and I will always remember him like that, it was matched only by his wicked sense of humour. He gave me a slip of paper once, all it said was “don’t buy a crocodile this year”, if you get that you know exactly the sense of humour I mean. He, and probably more-so we, were lucky that he had that all the way to the end. His humour often tied into his diplomacy, when he didn’t want to do anything, it would be “I probably could but I probably won’t”, if he had even ran for parliament, I would have voted him in every time.

It’s funny how when such a massive change happens in your life, it feels like such a polarizing moment that you notice the strangest things. Right now I just noticed how still the night is tonight, Wellington is well-known for being the windiest capital on earth, yet now there is not even a breath of it.

There have been a few tears, but yet I still don’t know how I feel about losing him. On one hand I feel that I haven’t lost him because he will always be with me, on the other, I feel lost knowing he has gone. There is sadness and there is relief that for him it is finally over, and that it happened more or less on his terms, he decided he wasn’t going to let something silly like old age and illness stop him, and his health constantly surprised me, both the lack of it and seemingly abundance of it. It always made me smile when I would take pictures and was told “don’t make me look sick”.

I said my goodbyes to Dida so many times over the last few years, although I usually preferred to phrase them “see you when I see you”, it feels weird that I’ll never actually get to see him again. If I could say one last thing to him it would be “thankyou for everything and I love you”, I’m lucky enough that I got that message passed to him just the other day.

People always say rest in peace in these situations, however I feel like I don’t need to, because I know he will be, so I’ll stick with my preferred line: To Dida, see you when I see you…


Note: I didn’t feel like posting this last night, I couldn’t be sure that it was everything I wanted to say, but today I’m posting this unchanged, it feels like everything I want to say. I’m not posting for sympathy, but for myself, to get this out of my mind, so that I know I will never forget it.

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