Today it has been three years since my sweet, sweet grandma passed away.
I didn’t know what to do about today. It always makes me sad because I think about the day it happens, but it brings me joy because it’s a day to remember who she was and the many, many ways she blessed my life. I thought I would write about it, but then I wasn’t sure what to write. But I created this blog as a place to write my stories, so this is the story, the sadness and the joy.
Three years ago, it was the weekend before my senior year of high school. Grandma had been in the hospital for several weeks, and my mom had spent a lot of that time with her in Kentucky. A few days before, after coffee with a friend, my mom had called to tell me that it was bad. Grandma had heart trouble for years, she had a hard time moving up the stairs, her health wasn’t good – I knew these things. I just didn’t know, as I sat in the Starbucks parking lot, that it was so serious so soon. My mom was telling me she wasn’t going to leave the hospital – Grandma wasn’t going to live very much longer. I called friends, no one was around, I drove to Kohl’s and bought a purse I didn’t need – so what I learned that day is I shouldn’t shop when I’m down, because retail therapy is apparently a real thing! My brother was on a Boy Scout campout and my dad was at work. When we got home, I asked him how serious the situation was – he said there was no way to know, it was entirely possible that Grandma could hang on for a longer time than we thought. Like I said, her health had never been great, but there had never been, in my head at least, that risk of losing her. I wasn’t expecting it that next day – Saturday – when he got the call that she had gone into septic shock. I didn’t even know what that was – I still don’t actually, I just Googled it to see if I had spelled it correctly! – but I knew this was it. My dad left to pick up my brother from his campout – something I hated, as my dad had just told me he had been on a campout when he found out his grandfather had passed away, and now he was going to do the same thing for my brother. I packed G3 and I a bag for the weekend and loaded the car. I called my best friends and no one was answering, so I stayed home alone. We drove to Kentucky and stopped at my grandparents on my dad’s side, who told us the news. She had passed away while we were on the road.
When we got to Bowling Green, it was like a dream – everything was blurry, but I remember every single detail. My mom came out of my grandparents’ house and held on to my dad, and we followed her inside. I took my younger cousins back outside and we lay in the grass and looked at the stars. Caroline was curled up in my lap, and Anna asked me if it was true Grandma’s soul was a star looking down on us, so we picked her out a star and watched it for awhile.
I think those moments afterwards show what happened in my grandma’s absence, almost immediately – our entire family drew together in an incredible way, to support and encourage and comfort each other. Especially my cousins – in an instant, we knew we all shared the same pain, and we were all we had. It hasn’t changed since then – at this point in my life I’m closer to my cousins, and I think we are all closer to each other, than we were when we played together as children. We all have something in common – Grandma’s memory – and there’s a certain understanding there.
Now for the joy! Because that day was awful, and it’s tempting to dwell on it, and to think that today is awful, too. But it doesn’t have to be. My grandma was an incredible woman with so much love for our entire family. She had a way of making each of us feel special all at the same time. She saved things for us – some of our favorite stories are about the gifts she found for us, whether there was an occasion for them or not! – one of the things I remember best is a list she pulled out of a Parade magazine, or something similar, with the most influential women of history, and one with a biography for each of the First Ladies. She encouraged my love of reading and nudged me into my love of history. She listened to my stories with endless patience. In case you hadn’t gleaned it yet from this blog, my favorite thing is telling stories and receiving them. So she listened to my stories about school and friends and band and boys and in return, she told me all of hers – stories I wish I’d held onto better now, but that I’ll always remember in pieces, and always remember the way she told them.
It’s hard now to look around me and realize I can’t call and tell her my stories any longer. It’s hard to think of all the things that have happened in the past three years and understand that she hasn’t been there for them. But she was there for so many others – she saw me perform with my band, she saw me lead my first service organization, she saw me grow up in ways no one else did, and those times are so incredibly valuable that no matter what the future holds, I know I’m lucky, beyond blessed, to have had my Grandma in my life and on my side for 17 years.
I thought today was a bad day to go down this road – if I was going to honor her memory, it should be on her birthday, or something like that – a day that celebrates life. But the simple fact of the matter is, the day that she met Jesus is equally worth celebrating. It changed what my life would look like forever, but it gave me the chance to understand how many ways she had influenced what it is and was. If we’re talking about things that have shaped me into a new romantic – she’s at the top of the list. So I think today it’s worth sharing the sadness and the joy, because let me tell you, I love my Grandma.
Grandma and I in 2011, on my 16th birthday