Each year I write a letter to my Grandma and post it on her birthday. When she was living, I wrote her poems every few years. Since she’s been gone, I’ve found these letters to be an integral part of learning to navigate a life without her in the daily happenings.
In many ways, this was the hardest one to write. This year was equal parts wishing you were here for monumental family events and being grateful you weren’t here because the isolation of this pandemic would have broken you in many ways.
Oh, how we needed you this year.
A few weeks after my last letter, one of your own beloveds received a diagnosis that rocked us all. The pandemic and distancing made our solidarity during operations and treatment through the year that much harder. I tried to channel your determined energy to encourage her to keep fighting…but it’s much harder to do through a screen. We needed you to hold her hand and be her strength. You were always so good at being strong for us when we felt we couldn’t take another step. She’s still with us, but for how long is anyone’s guess.
I tried so hard to be the cheerleader, but that is not my role. I am the family administrator, the advice giver, the researcher. I’m the one with the plan. This year nearly broke me with all its chaos. I’m tired. I just want to curl up on your couch one more time with your tiger blanket and watch a musical.
We needed you for the good times, too.
Your other beloved walked down the aisle with a bouquet crafted by her own hands instead of yours. She made something beautiful out of a wild situation – the first livestreamed wedding in our family history.
Today, your first great-grandchild is four days old. He knew he’d be in great company with a February birthday, so he arrived a bit early. What a precious amethyst baby. I found myself wondering how you’d handle meeting him over a video chat as we all did.
As much as your absence was felt, I found your presence this year as well.
I spent more time than ever in your park. It became a place to safely spend time with friends. We walked and talked and enjoyed the scenery you loved so much. I found a new path that I’d never walked in all our years there. Two of my dearest friends chose your park for their wedding and asked me to officiate. It was a glorious day and so full of joy. I felt your spirit in the air.
I took some risks this year for the sake of my own wellbeing. I chose myself in big ways. It was hard and scary and I tried to imagine you cheering for me as you did for so many years. I made the brave decisions and realized that I’ve been prepared for this my whole life. You helped raise a strong, resilient woman who can push past her comfort zone and it’s all going to be okay. It’s going to be messy and tough, but okay. I’ve never been good with uncertainty, but I’m learning to embrace it.
I found your voice in the most interesting of places. I heard phrases that you would say come out of the mouths of people who never knew you. They show me that same love you exuded. They tell me everything is fine even when it feels like life will never be fine again. They sit in my pain with me. They dance like fools. They’ve become family. They do not fill your void, but they somehow make it hurt a little less. You lived by the principle that family comes in all shapes and configurations…and it can change over time. Each passing day is only further proof of that truth.
You’re not here, but you’re here. You’re in the eyes of my siblings when they crinkle with laughter over ridiculous things. You’re in mom’s voice when she completely changes topics mid-sentence. You’re in the sunrises and sunsets over the lake. You’re in my heart and mind when I’m pondering my next decision. You’re in the stillness when I wonder if my dreams are worth chasing. I hear you, and I pray I never forget your voice.
You were my grandma, but really you were the extra parent I needed. The grieving continues because great loss is the result of the privilege of great love. I’ll dance for you today and always because dancing is the best medicine for an aching heart.
Until next year,
Sunshine loves you infinity plus 74.