I remember when they told me she was gone, and I laughed. What kind of cruel prank could they have been trying to play on me. I didn’t find it funny, but I laughed, for the sake of the person telling the joke. My grandmother was my best friend and the two arms I felt safest inside of. She died when I was seven years old and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. Until this point, death had never seemed to be a feasible event. At seven, no one told me that the people I love wouldn’t be here forever. No one told me that not only would people die, they would leave. There are stages of dealing with grief and it took me years to make my way to the final stage of acceptance. I am grateful for the memories of the times spent with her and although she is no longer here, I can still feel her with me. Losing my grandmother taught me that loving someone and losing them is hard, but to love and have been loved is worth the pain of loss.
Nothing could have prepared me for that day. I went home, locked myself into bedroom, and tried to wrap my mind around the concept of death. There was no way she could be gone. I pushed the thought, the concept, the whole day away and made myself think of anything else. I wouldn’t believe that if I called her right then, she wouldn’t answer. I stayed in this state of denial for months. When it was time for my grandmother’s funeral service, I refused to go. I was asked to write a poem or to tell a story about her, and I wanted to. I wanted to tell everyone how wonderful she was and how much she loved me but I refused again, because to do that meant I would have had to come face to face with reality, and much worse, my feelings.
When I was finally able to face the fact that she was no longer here, the guilt of not saying goodbye was eating me alive. This is when I began to write her letters. I wrote her one every day and then released them into the universe for her to find. I also didn’t understand the concept of littering at this point of my life either. In these letters, I would talk to her as if she were still here and we were just having a silly conversation like we used to. Eventually, my letters became more emotional and they were harder to write knowing that I wouldn’t be receiving any letters back. She wasn’t on an extended vacation in a far away land, she was completely unreachable. Although it was hard, I still wrote to her. I wrote to her until I could finally say goodbye; until I could finally let go of the hope that she would be back tomorrow.
It took me years but I was finally able to look back on our memories, and although I cried every time, I was grateful to have them. My grandmother’s name was Inez and my mother gave me her name as a middle name. I was little Inez and she was big Inez, even when I insisted that I was big Inez. I never had a care in the world when I was with her. I remember being happy, silly, and authentically myself. My grandmother made me feel comfortable and confident in being exactly who I was. She would let me dance around in her wigs, that I chose to wear upside down, whenever we had sleepovers. I would sing her songs that were special to me because I knew she would want to know what songs were special to me. I hold every memory close to my heart. She was the only grandparent that I was close to. Most people have four, but I had her and that was enough for me.
I learned lonely at a young age. I lived a world within myself. Learning to cope with loss was a long and confusing road. It was easy to get lost and sometimes the destination didn’t seem worth all the traveling. Eventually, I found myself cruising, blissfully, along memory lane, and I was happy to be there. I spent so many years crawling my way through the process of grieving. I taught myself how to keep on loving, despite the little voice reminding me that one day everyone leaves. I make the most of every moment with my loved ones, because one day these moments will be memories, and these memories will be worth everything. In losing my grandmother, I learned that knowing I’m going to lose the people I love someday isn’t a reason to love less, but instead a reason to love as openly and wholeheartedly as possible.
People aren’t here forever,