No Questions Asked

Posted: October 4, 2015 in life, loss, love, mourning
Tags: , , , , , , ,

11133659_10153167829056885_9214464502162003670_nWhat are you up to, where are you heading? Tell me what’s next…

Such a simple request; a short follow up to a previous interview I did with Jam The Gym blogger, and friend, Tim Toy. Headphones blasting, I began the process hoping for a seamless transition from thoughts to paper. Within minutes, I came to a screeching halt. I’ve been on autopilot for going on 9 weeks, my ability to articulate reflective thoughts in a coherent manner has escaped me.

Upon revisiting what’s being asked of me, I recognize I can dance around the proverbial elephant in the room and assume that the political answer of, “I’m taking a sabbatical, handling some family affairs” will suffice. Cowering behind vague commentary may prove to be a shiny distraction to the outside world, but no matter how pretty I paint the portrait, the image remains the same. Strip away false hope and the faint whispering tone used when speaking of those character defining moments in life, and what I’m left with is the task at hand. My Grandmother needs me; I’m home to ensure she passes peacefully and comfortably in her own home.

Unfortunately, peace and comfort are wishes, not guarantees. The only certainty in death is that it is certain, which shockingly absorbs a bit of the blow. Dying, however, elicits fear from the most hidden depths of my soul. I thought I understood the unforgiving nature of dying when my Pap faded into a morphine induced coma to ensure a “peaceful” passing just before I could make it home from college to say my goodbyes. But looking back, he protected me; keeping me away at school, ignorantly believing he was going to be fine; sheltered from the day to day struggle that comes with dying. We as a society romanticize dying, using words like quick, painless, peacefully, comfortably…I guess as a crutch or means to avoid confronting our own mortality. My Grandmother, though, wasn’t one to mince words. She’s a tough, beautiful woman who made it her life’s work to mold me into the man I am today. I don’t doubt for a second that this is her final lesson for me: Absolute, unconditional love.

There’s very little that can elicit an emotional response from me. It’s literally my job to remain stoic in times of high stress, a far cry from the small town kid who wore his heart on his sleeve. My defaults have reconfigured. Happiness translates into gratitude, kindness, and generosity. Sadness and anger morph into empathy and understanding. This is the process of the logical mind: taking basic emotions and transforming them into more sophisticated versions that will be useful when problem-solving. Still, we all have unguarded moments. Those experiences where life quietly creeps up and sucker punches you in the heart. We search for rhyme and reason to satiate our rational side but, in the absence of answers, we instead defer to those child-like feelings of elation, rage, and sorrow.

Throughout this whole process, there have been those moments of helplessness, times where I nearly broke down over how little I could do to ease her agony. I’m certain there will be many more. I wouldn’t dare be so selfish as to show my frustrations. She deserves nothing less than a gentle hand and warm smile. In turn, she rewards me by making jokes and by mistakenly calling me by my Pap’s name from time to time; the highest praise and utmost acknowledgment that I’m doing a good job. He was a special man who gave new meaning to selflessness.

For the most part, I’ve kept my guard high and tight while on the lookout for life creeping up in my blind spot. True to its nature, though, life doesn’t fight fair. I was coldcocked not once, but twice by Natalie Merchant, a poor man’s Alanis Morissette; the irony is nauseating.

The first blow, of this surprise 1-2 combo, came on an especially tough night. Gram had recently been bed ridden and we were in the process of changing home care companies so I was left to figure it out on the fly. After spending the better part of my day cleaning my Grandmother, all while trying to keep both of our dignities intact, I got a text from someone very near and dear to me saying, “This will always be your song (Kind & Generous).” It hit hard in that “getting choked up but not entirely sure why” kinda way; similar to when Tom Hanks loses Wilson in Castaway. In the moment, the full meaning may be hidden, but subconsciously it resonates.

The knockout blow came while making my first attempt to write this blog. In an attempt to reign my scattered thoughts into focus I switched to an ‘90’s playlist. By chance or instaquote-24-09-2015-19-29-12intelligent design, Kind & Generous was set as the background track to narrate my reflective thought process. A flood of early childhood memories washed over me. Moment after moment flashing by like a slideshow, each defined by the love and generosity that embodied my grandparents. The lyrics etched out perfect silhouettes of what genuinely thoughtful, giving individuals should resemble. My mind drew in the details, painting a flawless portrait of this exuberant, once healthy couple, who sacrificed any semblance of their golden years to ensure their family flourished. I know the pedestals I’ve placed my grandparents on are comprised of flaws and imperfections. But isn’t it so often, that the most human traits are what draw us to our heroes? Coming full circle I think back to that text. To think someone saw any semblance of their reflection in how I carry myself humbled me to tears.

Overwhelmed with gratitude and respect for these incredible saints I’m blessed enough to call Pap and Gram, I dropped everything and went to my Grandma’s bedside. She was fast asleep, as she had been for most of the past month. Yet I couldn’t help but hold her hand and quietly thank her for being such a selfless, impactful part of my life.

What had begun as a simple Q&A has transformed into a piece taking on a life all it’s own. I’ve added and omitted so many details that by the time I finally had a finished product I felt good about, everything had changed. Gram took a serious turn last night(Oct. 1st). The prognosis was bowel blockage. Between the morphine and inability to eat or drink, she was looking a week or two of round the clock pain meds and comatose-like state. This is dying. This is the real life, no bullshit version, of passing peacefully. This is what I swore I would do everything in my power to prevent. My grandmother deserved the grace and dignity in which she carried herself while being the caring mother of a struggling addict and the grandmother/ great-grandmother of the children she welcomed into her home to raise as her own. She deserved the elegance displayed by her impeccable taste in fashion, only sweetened by the 20% saved by shopping the sales. She deserved better. Better than I or any of us could provide. I just hope my pleas don’t fall on deaf ears…

Dear God,

I know we haven’t spoken in awhile, life sometimes gets in the way. Know that you do cross my mind in a multitude of ways. Relationships can be difficult. Too often we fall victim to out of sight out of mind. But I’m here now…

My grandmother is an angel of yours which you’ve been gracious enough to bless us with for just a little too long. You see she seems to have lost her way and has worn out her welcome in the body provided. Please, take her back. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the extra time you’ve given us together, but I’ve made promises; promises I can’t keep on my own. I know I’m in no position to be asking for favors and this is suppose to be the part where I face my own mortality while offering up empty promises of halfhearted worship in the future. I have no desire to be disingenuous. I’m simply asking for you to take care of one of your own, as I am no longer capable. Thank you for hearing me out, I’m sorry we had to reconnect under these circumstances. Please give my love to my Grandfather. Talk again soon…


11:38 am
October Second Two Thousand and Fifteen


  1. Mary Lamanna says:

    I love you, Matthew Berkey! You are a beautiful person. I am so very grateful that you are Brian’s friend. As someone who talks to God everyday, please know that one of my petitions is for your peace and comfort.


  2. Marianne Mazzocco says:

    Matt, this was so beautiful…brought back many thoughts and words that were in my heart not so many years ago. Just remember that your Gram will still always be looking out for you.


  3. Kim says:

    A friend mentioned the other day, “People always say ‘God doesn’t give us more than we can handle’ but I have to disagree… God absolutely gives us more than we can handle – if He didn’t we’d never have to lean in to Him.” You’ve done a hard, hard thing with grace and dignity, love and compassion, kindness and gentleness. It seems you’re more like them (grandparents) than you see/admit. “Well done my good and faithful servant…” Mt 25:21


  4. Anita Cannella says:

    My aunt and uncle were so blessed to have you in their lives, and to watch you grow up and become the amazing young man that you are. God bless you Matt!


  5. Elisa Kristman says:

    What beautiful words about such a beautiful person. You will always treasure the times spent with your Gram. I know I do. I just love her so much! It was great to spend some time with you and watch you care for your Gram! You were both so lucky to be in each other’s lives. Elisa


  6. Terri (Myers) Emehizer says:

    She loved her family so much that she has left all of us a part of her to dwell in us forever. You are such a wonderful strong man. A blessing.


  7. […] him how to shop the sales rack at Value City, picking up designer brands for next to nothing; a skill my Gram proudly passed on to me. He taught me how to use a butter knife as the only multipurpose tool a man would ever need. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s