My grandmother died three years ago, after a long battle with cancer. She died in the middle of the night, alone but unaware of her surroundings. She floated off on a cloud of morphine on Thanksgiving day, ensuring that we would never forget her.
As if we could.
She was the kind of grandma who wrote me letters faithfully in rehab, never once telling me she was ashamed of me or letting me doubt she believed in me. She was the kind of grandma who baked Christmas cookies with us year after year, patiently explaining why our Noel Wreaths crumbled on the cookie sheet. She was the kind of grandma who always answered when I called her to ask why I kept killing my orchids. She was the kind of grandma who made my prom dress when I asked her to. Had she been alive to make my wedding dress, she’d have done that too, never once letting me believe it was too much work for her.
Year after year, she made us gifts that far surpassed anything she could have purchased for us. I still wear the scarf and hat she made for me one Christmas over ten years ago. The blanket she crocheted for me when I was a young teenager still lays folded on my bed, as beautiful as the day she made it.
When she went to the hospital for the last time, I thanked God that I was sober and unemployed so that I could sit by her bedside every day, all day long. Had she been conscious, she would have appreciated being surrounded by family in her last hours. That’s the way she liked to live her life.
Of course there’s guilt. Maybe I didn’t visit her often enough when she was sick. Maybe if I had volunteered to live with her, she’d have hung on long enough to go to my sister’s wedding. Death always invites guilt, like an unwanted house guest.
But there’s nothing I can do about it now. She knew how much I loved her, even if I didn’t love her as well as she loved me.
After a week of sitting by her bedside as she held stubbornly to life in the hospital, she died in the middle of the night, alone.
That Thanksgiving morning, we all went to my parents house and spent the day together. It’s important to have family at times like those. I know as surely as I know that I was lucky to have her for a grandparent that she would have loved to have been there, surrounded by family, food, and laughter.
Of course, I think about her every Thanksgiving now. I remember her fussing over the gravy, always offering a set of hands in the kitchen. I remember her laughter, slightly gravelly from her Virginia Slims. I remember her love for us, her family, which was the most important part of her life.
She is a part of who I’ve become, and in that way, she’s always here with me.
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