The day I’ve dreaded my entire life came this past weekend. At bliss in my slumber I awoken into the nightmare that is now my life. My mom called. At first I didn’t think much of it. For all I knew it was already mid-afternoon and I had slept the morning away. The phone rang with her distinctive ringtone. The sound that came from the phone made no sense at all. I immediately knew something was wrong. My mother sounded labored, delirious, upset. I knew that sound, I remembered it from almost 8 years prior when my Aunt Gloria and my Papa died. She sounded frantic and nonsensical. She kept repeating that she couldn’t find her car. My brain couldn’t understand why my mother sounded so bereaved because she couldn’t find her vehicle. But then the words came that I never wanted to hear, the words that pierced like a knife through the confusion, “Mommy is gone!”
A few days have now passed since learning of my grandmother’s passing. The very grandmother whom I’d just seen two months ago, the one who inspired several of my most recent articles. As recently as July I wrote of how I felt about what I considered to be the longest goodbye. Even then, however, I felt like I had more time. I dismissed the thoughts of time only moving forward than it standing still. Childish as it was, I felt as though if I were able to keep her in my mind as she was, then she would never truly be gone from me. And while that is certainly true, I’ve found that no matter how much sense I can make of it, there is still so much of it that is an incomprehensible haze. At times it’s a sense of calm and others, it’s a numbness of my soul.
As my mother spoke, I was still coming to. My brain tried to keep up with the conversation, the sounds, the feelings. Nothing made sense, nothing felt real. There was a delay in my tears but they assuredly came as we neared the end of our conversation. My husband held me close. He hushed me in a manner similar to how my grandmother, the very one who’d just passed, would when I’d skinned my knee or was upset about something that had hurt me. I could still hear her voice in my head. I immediately wanted to call my grandfather to see how he was doing. I knew the answer but as their only granddaughter and oldest grandchild my thoughts gravitated back to my youth. Like a devil’s game, the image of every night grandma and grandpa going off to bed together played back in my mind. They have shared the same room and bed for the entirety of my life. And here I was, in that moment, thinking of what he would certainly feel when this dreadful day was done.
Each night since her passing has been like Groundhog Day. I beg for sleep to take me and it feels like it never comes. I awaken each morning thinking that the reality I now face without my grandmother being exactly where I left her is a fallacy. I don’t suppose we’re ever really ready. No matter how hard we try to cocoon ourselves from the pain, it still comes. I’d just spoken to her a week before. I recorded that call. I’m certainly glad now that I did. I’m not sure what to do with this profound sense of grief. It seems at times insurmountable. I didn’t know that it would be so all-consuming, so complex. We so often go through our daily lives doing what we can to not think of its finale. We push aside the fears of the unknown as well as what will happen to the loved ones we leave behind. Sometimes, trying to avoid death we foolishly avoid living our life.
The last thing I told my grandmother was that I loved her. I did so not knowing that it’d be the last thing I’d say. I listen back to my voice on the call and still hear that little girl who adored the woman who is still a part of my core. I smile when I hear her voice, when she laughs. I cry when I know that I will never hold her again or feel the warmth of her hand holding mine. What does one do when a piece of themselves leaves this world? You cry, you yell, you hold on to the treasure and the blessings that they gave to you. You continue to live your life in a manner that brings honor to them and celebrates their continued impact on the life that you lead. The only thing I ever expected from my grandmother, she gave to me in immeasurable abundance, her love. And for that and so much more, I will forever be grateful.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 9/24/14 issue of The Union-Recorder.