An Atheist in Mourning

My grandmother died this morning. She was 89. We were expecting this. Hers was a slow decline that gradually robbed her of who she was, her mobility, and dignity. She’d gone into hospice last week, and considering how long this has been I thought she would linger in hospice for a few months. So even with all of this I was a little stunned when I learned she’d died this morning.

I’m 35, but she’s the first person who I was close to who has died. My other three grandparents are all living. My parents are alive. I’ve not lost any friends. I did have an uncle who died growing up, but he lived 18 hours away and married into the family and I barely knew him. And while I’ve lost a lot of beloved pets, I’ve yet to lose a human family member.

I took a walk this morning to clear my head, and then I took a nap. And then I wrote a few things about my grandmother and her life to process this. I saw my parents and talked to my mom a little bit.

We are taking comfort in the fact that she is no longer suffering. My grandpa was also feeling guilty about putting her in a hospice nursing home, so the fact that she died less than a week after being placed in hospice is giving him comfort that he made the right decision, which helps the rest of us to feel better.

True to a woman who grew up during the Great Depression and never let anything, not even used Kleenix, go to waste, she donated her body to science. So hopefully the discoveries gleaned from her body will go to advancing medicine or training some up and coming doctor to that s/he may save lives.

I’ve been looking at pictures and thinking of memories.

We’ve not posted anything on Facebook yet. My great aunt’s (her sister) grandson is getting married today so we are waiting till after the wedding to tell her. And I’m nervous. One thing I noted is that even though since May my grandmother has been sick, my mom, sister, and non-religious aunt have not posted anything on Facebook. We’ve told friends we trust not to push religion on us, but saying anything on Facebook seems to invite a slew of people saying they are praying for you or preaching at you, which is not comforting for a lot of atheists to hear. Honestly better responses would be “I’m here if you want to talk” or “I’m coming over, what can I do to help?”

This is something I do feel like I have to address, and when I get the all clear I’m going to include an article on what to say to a grieving atheist. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, though, too many Christians see me as a mark for conversion and not a person with feelings, so I am worried about how it will go.

Meanwhile, I am thinking of the woman who ran into a burning house when she was a teenager to rescue her two younger siblings, who became the first person in her family to go to college, and who believed that it was more important than women to go to college than men because in 1950, women were barred from blue collar jobs that paid a decent wage. It is through her that my love of reading and education comes from. She and my grandpa took me on long road trips through the US and would spoil me rotten.

RIP, grandma.


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