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My grandmother died at a point in my life where I wasn't very proud of myself. She was my best friend, my biggest fan, and one of the greatest loves of my life, although I didn't always know that. Growing up, everyone ended up at grandma's house at one time or another. She was the glue that held our family together and once she was gone so was the family we all knew. My biggest regret in my life is that she didn't get to be as proud of me, as I would have liked.
My memory traces her from time to time. An old woman with a raspy voice, long blonde hair, and a face that lives in my heart. She smoked non filtered cigarettes, one after another and cooked all day long. One things for sure, you never left her house hungry. She was not shy with her opinions and used every moment as a teaching opportunity. My biggest memory though is that, she loved us with everything inside of her.
I wanted so badly to make her proud and it kills me that I wasn't at that point when she left this world. She never got to see the mom, I became and how I mirror so much of it after her. She left before I became a writer and before my second (and third) child was born. My life was falling apart, and her passing was a crash and burn period.
She taught me to fish, to draw, and to make cornbread. She taught me to curse, what a cassette tape was, and the real risks of smoking non filter cigarettes. We spent hours listening to old country music. Wide-eyed I listen to stories of her children and her parents. She braided my hair and told me that my birthmark made me the prettiest little girl in the world. Then she taught me how to grieve. She taught me what it feels like for your stomach to fall deep into your body and to be so sad standing seemed impossible. She was the absolute purest love of my life and then, the biggest loss.
When she passed I was well into my second pregnancy and although I had tried to prepare myself for the news for weeks, I was not ready. Then the funeral came and it looked like what I'd expect an eastern Kentucky county fair, would look like. It was the first time in a long time we'd all been together and we had lost the trunk that was our family tree. The silent sadness was deafening. We all lost a piece of our childhood and no amount of "she's in a better place" would fix that.
The preacher preached a beautiful eulogy and cousins spoke of her as a younger woman. We heard how she was pain free and she was with her daughter who had passed years before. As we left we made empty promises to be a closer family, exchanging numbers we had no intention to use, and the saddest hugs on the planet. When a person you love dies it feels as if the world stops moving for the first few days and then the day after the funeral it seems to spin again. Slower and sadder, but the normal routine must continue. As awful as it is, the world doesn't allow us to wallow. We are forced to pack sadness away and visit in the privacy of our hearts, as if not to make others around us uncomfortable.
Grandma even though, life moved on, I will never forget you. I will never stop speaking of you. I will tell my husband and children of the sassiest, most stubborn, and by far the best woman in my life. I will never flip a baby upside down, shower when it rains, or sweep under my daughters feet. I will ask your advice in my head and try to imagine what you would say to me. "You're smarter than that, girl." I will live in a way that would have made you proud, even, if I didn't get it right the first time.
On the off chance that better place is out there, I hope you wait for me, the way you did at the door when it got dark outside. I hope you stand tall and wrap me in your arms like you did when I was small. I hope you are smiling as big as I remember and I hope I made you proud. I love you as much as I did as a child and I will hold tight to you at all cost. Until, we are together again...
"You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, and know when to run." - Kenny Rogers