By Granate Advisor Kathryn Heuston Clark
Standing on a sunny train platform in the spring Barcelona sun back in 2015, my daughter, Kristen, turned to me and said, “I have an idea that will really help people.”
Not surprised, I said, “Tell me.”
“It’s an app to help people navigate death. It will take people through all the steps a person has to go through after someone dies: legal, financial, emotional. A death app.” She smiled.
The train pulled up, and we took our seats amidst our overflowing luggage and headed south. Closing my eyes, my mind took me back years ago to when my dad succumbed to glioblastoma. When he received his death sentence from the neurologist that Christmas, he gave his most cherished Baldwin baby grand to my daughter. He, being a jazz pianist at heart, never missed one of my daughter’s classical piano recitals. He was her staunchest critic and most steadfast supporter. On the day of his death, I vividly remember meeting with the funeral director professionally articulating a widow’s social security benefits, the veteran’s privilege of having a flag-draped coffin, and asking personal questions for the obituary while my mother’s eyes watered and I answered.
And then, all too soon, 16 months later, sitting in the same neurologist’s office as I had with my dad, I sat next to my husband, whose metastatic melanoma had spread to his brain. He could no longer write his name, let alone scribble algebra equations on dinner napkins for his daughter. He died just as the medical statistics indicated he would. I made my daughter come with me to the meeting with the funeral director. I was afraid that not only would my eyes water, but my throat would seize. We were both like deer caught in the headlights of death. We were on autopilot, but we had no idea where we were heading.
And five years later, my mother drove her lady friends to bridge and then out to lunch, came home — and then suffered a brain aneurysm that brought her to the company of her loving husband and son-in-law. I brought her home to die rather than leave her alone in a sterile hospital room. Again, my daughter was present as we watched her take her last breath. We held the most joyful cocktail party in honor of her life, and my daughter gave the final toast to whom she considered the “Giver of all good things,” her grandmother.
And finally, my brother, my daughter’s only uncle, passed away. When my daughter was five years old, she and her uncle volunteered at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in NYC every Sunday. They ran the gift shop, and afterward, they’d meandered around the most impressive cathedral before coming home for our Sunday dinner. One year, they received the award for “Volunteers of the Year.”
Within ten years, our family that used to be eight was reduced to four.
After his death, sitting in the lawyer’s office without a will, my daughter said, “Mom, I’ve got this. I’ll be the executor. You’ve done this too many times.” And I let her, having recently moved to a little island in Greece to reflect and heal from the past nine years.
And now we’re on a daughter and mother getaway. When she called me in Greece from NYC and asked me to meet her in Barcelona, I knew enough about life not to question. My answer was “Absolutely.”
I smiled as the train sped through the Spanish landscape. Yes, it makes sense that my daughter, who has worked in tech for the past ten years, would create a death app.
It’s June 2022. Ten years since the last death in our family. Writing this, sitting in a kafenio, in a small fishing village on the Cycladic Island of Syros, early in the morning, I am using all my power to keep my eyes dry as the server brings my frappe. It is in vain. The power of love and loss. The power of grief.
The power of Granate.
Love, Loss and grief endure, but Granate will guide you through.