Reflections of a Granddaughter on Loss

This year I became no longer a granddaughter. My last living grandparent passed away just before midnight on April 9th, 2015.

That day is actually the day before the Christian Orthodox Good Friday. My family is Serbian and faith is very much one with our nation’s identity, which would explain why Serbs refer to themselves as Serbian Orthodox when asked what religion we observe.

The day my maternal grandmother passed away is significant because since it was just 15 minutes before midnight, on the eve of Good Friday; that means that she was very pure of heart. This was said by the officiating priest Father Miloš Vesin, at her funeral. He was the priest who baptized me (I was the first child he ever baptized), he was the priest who would always come over to bless my maternal grandparents’ home on their krsna slava day, he was the priest who made a lasting impression on me and my family. He truly gives you goosebumps with his eloquent and stirring sermons.

My father and mother (right), me (center), and Father Miloš (right), at the end of my christening ceremony, in 1990.

I’ve seen Fr. Miloš periodically throughout my life, from the time he was a priest in East Chicago, to Schererville, IN, to Lansing, IL. Coincidentally he was celebrated last month on September 20th at his parish, St. Archangel Michael for his 25 years of service and contributions. He travels much, going on speaking engagements and doing good works around the world. He is a figurehead in Christian Orthodoxy, internationally reveared. He even has a Ph. D in Psychology! He is one of those rare learned men that we don’t see very much of these days.

Stills of Fr. Miloš at his beautifully frescoed church in Lansing, IL. Source: “When My Baba Died.”

He wrote the foreward to a book geared to children, to help them with the grieving process and to understand the traditions with honoring the dead and the funeral service. I think I’d like to buy this for my children, so that when they first learn of a loved one’s death, it won’t be as hard as it was for me when I was little and lost my first grandparent.

“When by Baba Died” by Marjorie Kunch (Author), Father Milos Vesin (Foreword). Available Worldwide and through Amazon.

Sad to say, Fr. Miloš’ mother passed away a few weeks after my maternal grandmother’s funeral. I remember him apologizing to my family after the burial, that he couldn’t stay for the meal afterwards because he had to catch a flight for Serbia, to be at his mother’s side.

I still remember the day of the funeral so clearly.

April 14th, 2015, the day of my maternal grandmother’s funeral. Location: St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church in Lansing, IL. Fr. Miloš in bottom right pannel, the officiating priest.

My husband and I made it just before the church doors were closing, and Fr. Miloš was the one who was closing the doors. I hadn’t seen him in quite a few years (maybe 9 years or something). He smiled when he saw me, he was exactly the same as always except a little more gray. We went to the front pew and sat with my parents, and the service delivered by him was one of the most moving. He knew my grandmother, my baka as we call our grandmother’s in Serbian. His oration was so touching because he had personal stories to share himself. I started to cry when he spoke about his first meeting her when he was a young priest, how kind she was and funny. He spoke about the slavas, and my grandmother insisting he eat and stay after blessing their home. He delivered the entire service in Serbian because my grandmother had asked for that. She was a traditionalist, she was proud of her language, and if you believe that our loved ones hang around after they are gone, having the service in Serbian meant that she would be able to listen in and understand everything without the need for translation.

It feels Like a part of me is missing now that all  my grandparents are gone.

My connection with the past feels locked away. My memories of my grandparents is getting harder to recall, I can’t remember their voices anymore. All I have are a couple video transfers of my christening and my parent’s wedding to hear the voices of my maternal grandparents. My paternal grandparents lived overseas, and all I have are photographs of them. I see their faces in elders who share similar features and expressions. My heart swells up with sadness when the littlest reminder of them comes up.

Depending on what kind of relationship you had with your grandparents, the grieving process can be very painful if you were really close. I used to think a lot in those first few weeks since her passing about how my baka got to see me earn my degrees, get married, buy a house, and that’s more than the other three grandparents got to see. But I quickly saw that focusing on the sad and what wasn’t only kept me feeling irrevocably inconsolable.

The way I’ve dealt with each loss of a grandparent has always gotten better by distracting myself with busy work, leisure activities, taking care of myself and helping others. Creativity has always been the best way for me to feel better and remember that loss is a part of life, and doesn’t mean I am lost.

I wonder what our parents feel like, now that they are primed to be grandparents one day. My husband and I one day will be grandparents too. As a granddaughter I saw my grandparents as these great outlets for fun and freedom, and I learned from them things my parents couldn’t teach me. Although they are gone, I am so happy I got to meet them and be with them in my lifetime. I imagine that when I am a grandparent, I will feel a unique sense of fullfilment and joy from loving and, giving, and teaching my grandchildren. I also know that I will be sad to know that my time is limited with them. Although we all know there is an end in sight to our lives, that does not mean we give in and stay maudline because we can’t freeze the hands of time. Focusing on the positive things in life is what we live for and gives us light.

So with loss I recommend life, love, and taking time to grieve; but also celebrate the great memories of the ones we lost.

Mara and Nikola Novakovich, the serbian orthodox grandparents of Stephanie Pyrzynski (née Jevtić).

Recommended reading

Read Fr. Miloš bio, it’s quite fascinating.

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