Nearly a century of life packed in a box
Today marks three months since my trip to Colorado to be with my Grandmother before she passed away. I didn’t make it there in time to see her or speak to her. I’ve been told by well-meaning people that it wouldn’t have made a difference. She knew how much I loved her and that was enough. Or that she didn’t want me to see her that way and just knowing I was on my way was enough for her. Or that she was comforted by the fact that I’d have family around me when I learned of her death. Or that saying goodbye, or hearing me say it, would have made leaving that much harder for her.
The last thing I’d want to do is make anything harder for anyone – most especially someone as ill as she had been. But I wonder if I didn’t need to have a difficult time of it for myself. To suffer through the moments before she passed. Showing up after the fact let me off too easily. Like closing a book after the story is read. Difference being, you can always open the book again to revisit moments that touched you. I can’t do that with my grandmother. Yet there are so many moments I’d love to revisit.
Grief is a disastrous thing. It makes you physically ill. Mentally absent. Emotionally unpredictable. But grief is also a gift. A tribute to the one who has passed. It’s the pain, the yearning for one more conversation, one more hug, one more shared and knowing glance, that reminds us of how much we had and how special it was. It should also remind us not to take anything for granted again, and maybe it does, though I’d bet for only the briefest of times.
Something else comes to us in grief. A sort of wonder. My grandmother lived nearly a century and yet it wasn’t until after her passing that I was able to connect with moments of her past. Moments I wish I’d known about earlier – moments about which I should have asked when I had the chance. It was while lovingly handling her precious belongings that the important or life-altering moments of her life became more apparent. A small leather purse with a handful of war rations. A newspaper clipping citing her as recipient of the Employee of the Month Award in April of 1945 – a clipping where she had crossed out her carelessly misspelled name and printed it properly with pen. Rosary beads. Photos of family. Birthday and mother’s day cards my mom, my sister and I had given her over the years. Tenderly crafted and delicate doilies, bedspreads and tablecloths. Intricate crochet samples created from her own imagination. Stunningly beautiful treasures without value yet priceless to me.
We gave away much of what she had. We wanted people who needed it to have it, use it, and appreciate it. We also packed some of what she had in boxes – things too precious to give away, too absorbed by memories of her use to be used by us. Those things will not be forgotten in those boxes, but preserved, remembered and always connected to her.
Three months have gone since my trip to Colorado to be with my grandmother before she passed. Three months since I lost her. Three months have reminded me of what I had – a buddy. A wonderfully comical, witty, sarcastic and caustic little wonder who loved me for who I was, not caring to change me in any way, who accepted me as though I had not a flaw. Or at least, that’s how she made me feel. Like I was perfect. And for her, I wanted to be.
I ache to not have been there to tell her again that I loved her. I ache to have been miles away, to have stopped for a cup of coffee instead of going straight to see her – those minutes would have made all the difference. But I ache more because of how much she shaped my life – as a child, a teen, and a wife, mother, granddaughter.
I hope in my time of death, I am reunited with her and that she still believes in me. I will strive to make it so.
For Grandma. My riceball. My buddy. My Sicilian pain in the ass. I love you.