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Gaining and Losing

Gain and loss.

No, this isn't a blog post on how to lose weight quickly (or at all--I'm definitely not the one to ask about weight loss right now since I can't seem to keep my fingers out of the cabinets for more than fifteen minutes). 

This is a blog post on life and death and everything in between. 

2013 has been emotional. I gave birth to my amazing daughter, a time that was both wonderful and terrifying, and I said good-bye to beloved grandfather. 

As a first-time mom, I got to experience the highs and lows that come along with being pregnant, going through labor and delivery, and coming home with a beautiful but puzzling little human. 

On the other end of the spectrum, my mom's dad passed away just a few short weeks ago. He's the third grandparent I'd lost, but, since I was with him when he died, his death has impacted me in such a different way than the others. 

You might wonder what I'm doing--what does the birth of a baby have to do with the loss of a grandparent? To me, everything. 

I hadn't ever experienced the dawning of a new life until Britton arrived. And I hadn't watched the setting of someone else's until Grand-dan passed away. 

But having been there for both (and in such a short time period), it seems as if they are so much more connected than people want to admit. 

When Britton was born, I kept asking Landon, "Where did she come from?" He thought that it was the medication talking (and, to some extent, it probably was), but what I was trying to grasp was this idea of being, of place, of existence. We've all got our individual ideas on what happens after death (reincarnation, Heaven, nothing, etc.), but no one really seems to dwell on where we come from. 

In those heavily medicated days, I also would cry and cry because I probably won't be there for every day of Britton's life. I would think of her as an old, old woman, and know that I would not be with her. The idea that we'd be separated tore me apart in those emotional first days. It saddens me now that she and I will one day have to say goodbye to one another just as I did to my grandfather. 

When my grandfather went into the hospital, we all thought that he would be okay. He'd been having some issues with his heart, so we were completely shocked to find out that he had stage 3 cancer. After he found out about his diagnosis, he seemed to accept it--and at that moment, his health began to decline drastically. I went up to be with my mom, grandmother, and grandfather; I stayed in the hospital room with my mom and Grand-dan for moral support and company. 

Those 48 hours that I was there opened my eyes as to what happens at the other end of life. I learned that there are signs that death is impending, like the way a patient is breathing or the color of the patient's legs. I learned that helping someone through the final transition is mentally and emotionally challenging for everyone involved. Grand-dan told me multiple times, "I want to beat this, but I know I can't." He wanted us to know that he was okay with dying, and that was the hardest thing for me to accept. 

I had to tell him, "Grand-dan, I love you. It's okay to go."

Just as I had to help bring Britton into this life from wherever we come, I had to help lead Grand-dan out of it. Neither was easy. There were tears shed, memories made, hands held, doctors talking, hugs exchanged, and lives changed in both.

In some ways, I feel as if I peeked behind the curtain of life and, for a brief moment, saw a tiny bit of what makes this world tick. But I have no conclusions, no big reveals about the meaning of life still. Birth and death remain mysteries to me. And they should. 

What I do know is that I love both of them and will treasure the time I do have. If I look at it that way, there are only things to gain, and nothing truly to lose.