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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Three Years Ago — 38 Comments

  1. I love your story about your Grandma. You are so fortunate to have someone like her. I can feel your loss especially at Thanksgiving. Your memories will always be with you. I am sure your Grandma watched you all and is happy to know you are having a great time.
    Best wishes to you.May you always be happy.

  2. What a lovely tribute to a woman who sounds amazing. Grandmas are something special, aren’t they? I lost my grandmother just over two years ago and I think about her every day.
    Suzanne recently posted…The EndMy Profile

  3. Natalie, she was a very ‘Special’ lady. Thanks for reminding me that today, this moment is all we have with our loved ones.

    Love you, doll!

    Mama Maria

  4. Completely, so, so beautiful. She sounds like an incredible woman, and you had a wonderful relationship with her. In spite of the sadness, how amazingly beautiful to be able to remember her so vividly, and the loveliness you shared together.

    Thank you for writing this.
    Considerer recently posted…Ten Things of Thankful #26My Profile

  5. I am crying my eyes out. This helped me to heal a little today, because I was so close to my grandmother I felt crazy guilt for not spending more time with her. You cried when you wrote this, I have no doubt. You are a loving, good person. She is no doubt overwhelmed with pride for who you are and that she was your grandmother.

    • Oh yes, you better believe I was crying! It’s funny how the guilt creeps in… And I’m sorry about your grandmother. It is so hard losing someone we love. I am sure she knew how much you loved her.

  6. so my phone was flukey and I don’t know if this comment got to you so I will comment again…lucky you huh? Seriously your grandmother sounds like she was more than special. That guilt after death thing is funny … that we would think someone who didn’t judge us in life would in death …. or that we somehow fell short… I also wanted to say congrats on your sobriety which you also mentioned above… Ive read a few of those posts and you have been sober quite some time now correct? That’s awesome!

  7. Death of a loved one often invites guilt but on a good day, it can also invite us to share the legacy of that person, which you have so eloquently done above. Thank you for letting us know about her dedication to family and her warmth. There’s nothing more inspiring we can do for one another than share these types of stories.
    Ilene recently posted…Upside DownMy Profile

  8. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. It is so wonderful that she made stuff for you that you still treasure and wear. Somewhere she is looking down at you and watching over you, I bet.

  9. This is a beautiful post, Natalie. Not for the first time, you’ve made me cry. It’s important to hold on the memories, and while it’s hard, sometimes death can be a mercy.

    I’m glad you got to have her in your life, unconditionally.

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