My grandmother passed on August 30th, 2015 at 4:00 AM. My mother wasn’t told so until later in the afternoon that day. I was told at work around 2 PM.
Something I’ve been wondering is how or why this death, from a very abstract view of people pass on and that’s part of life, has touched me so. Why has this death gripped some deep emotional part of me, so much so that I find myself crying when I haven’t given my body permission to do so?
I’ve been wondering why my eyes have been tearing up in traffic when I hear the word “God” or “love”. I’ve been wondering why I will look at the sunset and not be able to keep my face from scrunching up until I hear that little girl inside of me choke on a sob.
I know that people pass on; I know that bodies fail for they are finite. I know that sicknesses, though I don’t still understand or truly believe there aren’t better cures than what we’re trying to give people, do kill people. Its murder, in the worst way, because we thought that this strange lack of breath my grandma was experiencing was simply a side effect to some new eye drops she was prescribed. How did lung cancer seize my grandma?
My healthy grandma that did her own yard work, that was one of the most active 80 year-old women I’ve ever seen. She was the prime starlight of all of those commercials about how older folks need x,y, and z to stay healthy; she did it without the medications. She was simply healthy.
But a little less than three weeks ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer. I saw her last Monday, struggling to breathe in a white room near the busiest parts of downtown Jacksonville. She was able to watch the sun rise and set from her room, she had the corner room, so those moments were glorious. God was painting His pictures and she got to watch.
But I think, even from the abstract way of knowing that bodies fail and death prevails over humans but not over the lives they led, that I know why this death has brought along so much pain.
My grandma taught me that you can never shop for grocery items without a grocery list. You need to make sure that the first thing that moves from the buggy (shopping cart for those who aren’t as southern as my Quilly) is your purse because once she was robbed by a young gentleman in Jacksonville, outside of a Winn-Dixie I believe. She hadn’t put her purse in the car and she later told the story more times than I could count on my fingers and toes. She taught me that prayer lists were just as important as writing down what books you had read that year. She reminded me that there was nothing better than a hand-written letter; an e-mail would never beat it.
She was the one I stayed with in the summer between my 9th and 10th grade years in high school. That summer I found myself kneeling in a man’s room that I barely knew, sobbing for I had sinned and he did not give any type of reassurance. The only light I felt in that incredibly dark and dirty room was the Love of God. I told grandma about that and she never blinked. She didn’t judge. She sat with her coffee, in her onesie with inquisitive eyes. It was as though she was seeing me change from a little girl to a girl that’s still little, but with big girl problems. She invited me to church with her the next day. That day I felt comforted. I didn’t feel this extremely superficial feeling of how I was completed saved in that moment, as the southern Baptist church sang old hymns that I found kind to the ears. I didn’t feel crazily mind-blown, but I felt a comfort that I had missed from knowing there was a Higher Power.
That week at Grandma’s I re-established habits and prayerful consciousness. I was allowed to openly talk about how I was feeling. Grandm learned a lot of me that week and I learned even more about the strongest woman I knew. She became much more to me that week because she told me her struggles and her truths. I learned those; I branded them in my brain.
That’s why. That’s why its so difficult to understand how this strong woman because a frail body that was very ready to go. She was very ready to move on, and meet her Maker. She was ready because she had trust that the life without pain was waiting for her.
I’m swallowing back tears daily because Jacksonville is now going to feel so empty without you, Grandma. Those old thrift shops in Callahan, Yulee, and Fernandina will no longer see your shining face.
The days I do head to Callahan won’t be filled with you and soy chocolate milk coffee or easy mornings on the porch or Bible time or reading time or listening to old tunes on the record player or naps on the most comfortable couch as dinner is being prepared. That’s why. That’s why this one hurts.