Today I saw the movie Amour. I promise there will be no spoiler here, but there is an elderly couple both fighting the effects of aging and one more than the other, much more. Amour is French for the word love, and the movie is entirely in French, which means there were subtitles to read. The movie was at times painstakingly slow, but for good reason. This isn’t really a post about a movie, no but something very similar. I was raised for the majority of my life by my Papa and Granny. My Granny is no longer with us, but my Papa is still here with us. Part of the story reminded me so much of what I saw.
The couple in the film is Anne and Georges. Anne suffers multiple setbacks including two strokes, which leaves part of her paralyzed. The film is no romantic comedy. Rather it is slow and filled with moving scene after another that takes place all in one house. There’s no flashy remembrance of young love, but just what it takes to survive the difficult process of aging, alone together. I was reminded when talking with my good friend Brent of what so many relationships are like in their elder years. We often see just flashes of their love, a quick snapshot, and we just quickly remark, “What a cute old couple.” We neglect to realize all of the work and time it takes especially with the process of aging that goes into a relationship. A spouse taking care of another dying spouse is something uncomfortable. It’s not taking someone out on a walk to get a little rehab in. It’s not cooking a four course meal to show your appreciation. Taking care of a dying family member, not just spouse to spouse, is much more than just taking a walk. Taking care of someone dying is forgetting about your life as you know it, and letter theirs be your number one priority. It’s lifting them off the toilet, giving them a shower; it’s comforting and holding their hand when they do not realize where they are, because they are scared.
Many times when faced with someone hurting in your family that is hard to take care of, it’s almost natural to just put them into hospice, or into nursing home. But, in my family and in Amour that wasn't the case. The easy route was not taken, and the work stays at the house. This is nice, because your loved one(s) stay close to you, but you also see their decline and ultimately their death. You watch their smile turn into a bland look that just sticks. Their energy falls to where sleep is the only productive activity. Then they’re gone.
The grieving doesn't happen at the funereal, because it’s already happened. The grieving begins when you see your loved one suffering. When you see that he/she is no longer what they used to be. I remember a few years ago when I was a pallbearer at my Granny’s funeral, I didn't shed many tears. Yes I did cry, it doesn’t take much to make me cry regardless. But, I truly didn’t grieve, and I felt weird not doing it. It was because I had been grieving while she was sick, while she was in pain. It broke my heart I was away at college when she was the worst. But, at the funeral there was almost a peace about my heart, and that was because she was truly at rest.
Save a place for me Granny.