I lost my grandma at the end of June.
While her health was not the best, her death still took me by surprise. In fact, she had decided to venture out on a miniature vacation with my mother when, unexpectedly, she became very ill.
Despite all of the Covid precautions I had been trying to take, I immediately hopped onto a plane, masked up, and flew to where she was.
When I was a little girl, my grandma was always my safe place. My dad was a drug addict and not around much and my mom was living in a very unhealthy relationship with a drug dealer.
She let us live with her two different times. Once when I was too young to remember–one, maybe two years old–and again when I was 7.
It was at this age that my relationship with my grandma made such an impact. I came from a home where drugs, partying, domestic violence, and who knows what else, were normal.
After a traumatic morning of fighting and threats, my older brother called my grandparents and, from that morning on, we were safe.
It was not a forever arrangement, though I have often wondered what my life would have been like if it had been. Rather, it lasted about a year and a half.
But, in that year and a half, I learned to read. I learned to love school. I made friends, had my hair done, and wore clean clothes that somebody else laid out for me.
It was a safe, loving, and formative experience that I am sure resulted in my overall resiliency.
It did not last. We did have to go back to my mom. That was a turning point in my attachment–I became insecure, anxious, worried, and a hypochondriac.
I lived for the weekends or summers where I could just go to grandma’s house and feel safe again.
Our bond was solid. I could always call. She would always hear me out, cheer me on, and help me when I needed it. That was true when I was a child, a teenager, and a mom…we may not have lived with her, but, no matter what, she was always there for me.
After a full day of airports and plane rides, I walked into the room where my grandma was dying.
My mom immediately started sobbing and crying about how hard this has been on her. How she didn’t have long.
I knew, looking at her, that her time was short. She wasn’t awake. Her oxygen levels were terrible, and I could hear her gurgling for air and moaning in pain.
Everyone around me fell apart.
I straightened my spine and stood tall.
My mom stood there, expecting me to fall apart, too.
But, I couldn’t do it in front of her. I don’t share vulnerabilities with her…not my mom. Not willingly.
The woman that I cried with and shared my heart with was in the bed, breathing her last breaths.
So, I became the controlled, crisis manager that I’ve always been. I helped my mom give my grandma her meds, got everyone else settled in for the night, and laid down.
When, at 6am, we all woke to find her not moving, not breathing, it was me who took action. I checked her pulse. I convinced my sobbing mother that, as much as none of us wanted it to be true, she was gone.
I stayed with my mom. I wrote the obituary, made sure it was published where it should be published, and helped my mom drive back across the country…this time, with grandma in an urn.
And still. I could not feel it. I could not cry.
I did not want to feel it. I did not want to cry.
What I wanted was to pick up my phone and hear a voice message that said, “Hey little girl. It’s just grandma. Call me when you have time.“
But that call never came.
So, instead, I buried myself in busy. Grad school. Teaching. Mom-ing. Surviving in a pandemic and in our horrible, political world.
I shoved it in, down…down…down…as far as it could go.
I tried not to think of the way her body looked when the two men from the funeral home moved her.
Or how I didn’t lay next to her in her last hours and hold her the way she used to hold me.
I put it all inside until, last week, it all came bursting out of me.
Now, I am grieving. Feeling it all. Unable to stop the tears that come at unexpected times.
Unable to stop the memories. Or the feelings of impossibility that I feel when I realize that she just isn’t there anymore.
Have you ever stopped to think of how earth shattering it is…how we are here one moment, full of life, and the next moment we simply cease to exist?
I yearn to talk to her and hear her voice one more time. To see her sitting in her recliner, petting her dog.
Though I know, I never will again.