April 25, 2013

A Grandmother's Legacy

Grandmas hold our tiny hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever.
-Author Unknown

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.
author image


Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. I am truly sorry for your loss. When I was 18 my Grandma passed away. I was very close to her and after she passed away... I truly realized how some people are not close to their grandparents.. It is true. Soon, you will learn to cope with it. There will be times and moments in your life where you will still cry and mourn for her.. but it does get easier for the most part. Just remember though that everyone grieves differently and their really isn't an appropriate amount of time. I am mumbling.. maybe cause there is so much I want to say.. yet I don't want to be overwhelming. Anyways. Like I said, I am really sorry for your loss and this post was beautifully written.

    1. Thank you, Kelsey! Your response is so kind and thoughtful and I really appreciated reading this. Talking to people and hearing/reading about their experiences does help quite a bit. I mean, we all do experience things differently, but there are certain events experienced by all, and it is definitely comforting to hear about others and relive experiences that way.

  2. I am so sorry Manda. If I could, I would take away your pain, but somehow, we learn from our losses. Does it make them any better or less hurtful? No. But I definitely am a different, stronger person today because of what I have suffered. Like you said, I feel fortunate for living my entire life with three living grandparents, and I believe that if my pop-pop had passed on later in life, I would have handled it differently than I did at four. Just as you said, I remember him more as a grandfather than an individual independent of that role. The pain has faded but even today, I still have my sad moments. I can hardly imagine what you're going through because everyone grieves in their own way, but I just want to let you know that I am here for you, if just to listen when you need someone to talk to. This post was beautifully written, and I'm sure you will be a wonderful wife, mother, and grandmother, and just overall, a strong woman that would have made her very proud. Wait, forget that, you already are strong and just a wonderful friend and individual.

    1. Thank you, Cort! It's really nice to know my friends have got my back right now. You are so sweet. And I am so glad we are able to talk to each other all the time. I think I still have a lot of growing to do to be like her, but it's nice to know you think I'm on the right track.


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