Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever.
On April 15, 2013, the majority of the United States mourned the tragedy in Boston. My own family suffered a different, personal, and more acute sort of tragedy that day as we watched my maternal grandmother pass from this world to the next.
It’s been over a week since I said goodbye to her and I still feel a strange sense of loss and helplessness whenever I think back on the past few days. My questions linger, as does my hurt and pain. At times I marvel at humanity’s capacity to endure so many instances of suffering. How is it possible to move forward through grief? Do we even want to?
At the same time, however, how much sweeter, how much more meaningful everything becomes when we consider how transient life is. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had all four of my grandparents alive for the first twenty-four years of my life. As I developed from a young child to an adult, I’ve become able to see my grandmother not simply as a secondary mother figure or figure of authority, but as a person in her own right. I’m not sure every person can say the same, especially those who lost a grandparent at a young age.
When I think of my grandmother, what first comes to mind is her zest for life. How her blue eyes would sparkle with joy. How she always liked to keep her hands busy, whether it be in cooking, cleaning the dishes (always by hand), folding laundry, gardening, stroking the keyboard’s ivory keys. Her unerring kindness towards every person she met. While I still cannot believe that she’ll never be able to do any of these things again, I feel comforted in the knowledge that she did live life to the fullest.
My maternal grandparents came out to the Midwest to temporarily live with my family after their house in New Jersey was flooded from Hurricane Sandy. At the time, my family could never imagine being grateful for the massive storm and its ensuing destruction, but I suppose we are, in a way. After living no more than an hour and a half away from my grandparents for the first eighteen years of my life, I went to college in another state while the rest of my family moved to Wisconsin. I graduated college and moved in with my family. For the past six years, those once monthly visits have turned into twice yearly visits at most. In the advent of Sandy, my family and I have been able to spend every single day of the past six months with my grandparents. It’s been an experience I would not change for anything.
Everyone’s been telling me it gets easier with time, that the pain gets more muted, less desperate. Once the pain begins to leave and the rhythms of life stabilize, however, the question remains of how to adapt to this new reality. Life goes on, as it always will. People endure their own personal trials and tribulations, even as they’re unaware of mine. As for me, I hope to come to terms with my grandmother’s passing by being able to look at it not simply as the end of a life, but as the beginning of a new chapter in my life, a life guided by the same sense of dignity, compassion, and kindness that she possessed.
Over the years my grandmother has taught me so much. I hope someday to become a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend to a degree that would make her proud. And, through it all, to keep her memory strong. For it is the task of those of us who remain to ensure that the memories and the love continue to be passed down.