I had always thought that the day my grandma passed would be the worst day of my life. I didn’t know it would be the morning after.
For the first time in twenty-four years I existed in a place my grandma physically did not. My heart beat in place of hers.
I made my dad drive me to the hospital this morning. Where else was I supposed to be? This is the place I ran to as soon as my eyes opened and the last place I left before they closed for the night. It was now engrained in me to be here- to walk through the doors of the ICU, to her room, to her bed.
This morning when I walked in I could see the pity in the nurses faces. They knew that I didn’t know where I should be.
Patty, one of our favorite R.N.’s walked towards me and grabbed me tight-holding all of my broken pieces together. I cried, hard.
They had closed the curtains to my grandma’s room. It was like they knew it was too hard for me to peek inside and see the emptiness of it all. With the curtains closed I could still pretend my grandma was in there sleeping.
I stood in the middle of the ICU and I wasn’t ready to leave. This was my home, too. I had become accustomed to the sterile smells, the fragrance of hand sanitizer. I didn’t want to move away from Patty and Klara. I wanted to throw a suitcase in my grandma’s room, curl up on the blue recliner and pretend that we could all stay here forever.
I realized this morning that we had lost more than my grandma. We were losing a family that had been carefully and quickly constructed over the course of our stay here.
But, it was time to go. I squeezed Patty- I told her my grandma loved her. It felt like my job to comfort everyone around me.
And then we were in the car, on the way to a funeral home my grandma had picked out 15 years ago, after my grandpa had passed. They usher us in. They tell us they are so sorry for our loss-but I barely process the things people are saying to me now.
The entire world, everything around me seems muted. It’s like I can’t see in color anymore, I can’t hear the “I’m so sorry for your loss” statements people spit out to break up the silence.
Arlene the funeral director takes us downstairs and she walks us through rooms of caskets and shelves of urns. She is pointing out this kind of wood and that kind of copper. She brings us a catalog of jewelry we can order and goes through the linens they have.
I feel like I am sitting at Cipriani picking out china patterns for my wedding. But my grandma won’t be at my wedding.
And this isn’t a celebration.
And all I keep thinking is, “why hasn’t she come back for me yet?”
And all I can do is just keep going, keep waiting, keep crying, keep hiding.
I know today what I knew two years ago;
My grandma is the great love of my life. That night she took her last breath, I felt like I was taking mine. But I made her promises I had to fulfill. I promised her I would go on, that I would be okay, that people would know her story.
But most importantly, I promised to never let go.