It’s 5 am on January 7, 2017.  I’ve been up for hours, unable to really go to sleep—tidying up, answering emails, doing things to keep my mind occupied. For the past 3 years, sleep typically evades me on this day.  I don’t plan it. It’s just difficult to fall asleep. So I write:

Today is my Grandma’s birthday.

Geez. 3 years. It has flown by! She would be 82. So much has changed.

I miss her voice and hugs and back pats/rubs. I miss talking to her—listening to her.

I miss her humor and her charm. I miss her food. I miss her smile.

These things I store in my heart and memory, yet I fear that as time passes these things will become a faint memory. I fear no longer hearing her voice in my head.  At this point, I still do when I make decisions or am stressed or need encouragement. I STILL hear her voice telling me “you’ll be alright.” In trying times, I’ve even had to say it to myself—like a mantra.

I also never realized how much I bring her up in conversation. Folks who never met her, feel like they know her based on the way I describe her.  Many have expressed how they wish they would have met her because they would love to sit at the feet of the lady who raised me. I was privileged in that way. I was her “hand baby” and from the cradle to adulthood, she played a vital role in my life.

My Grandmothers death has taught me two important lessons:

  1. Because of her, I know what it means to love.
  2. Because of her, I also know what it means to lose.

And I think that makes me a better person—not in the “you should cherish every moment like it’s your last” type person (though that ‘s good). Better in the sense that I know love. I cannot find the words to describe what love feels like. But I KNOW love. Comparable only to knowing God. She is my compass for selflessness, kindness, compassion, empathy; my road map to prayer, perseverance and patience. My guiding light for laughter and love.

When she died, it did not feel real. I received the phone call from my mom and all she could say was “Ma’s gone.” I knew it happened, but there is a cognitive dissonance that occurred when I heard the words uttered. I was struggling with my will being trumped by God’s. I struggled with the idea of being hours away when she passed—somehow thinking that my presence could have encouraged her to evade death one more time. I had seen her do it before. I had seen God answer my prayers for healing. I knew God could do it, but when He didn’t I realized I had lost. I wasn’t used to God not answering my prayers. Granted, before then, I had never prayed for anything as significant but I felt a sense of disappointment in a God that I served—and loved, who decided that He couldn’t just do it for me. I was selfish and wanted her here for me. Because if she wasn’t, then where did that leave me?

After all of the typical festivities of funeral arrangements, I returned to work weeks later to looks of sympathy, statements of condolences and cards of kind words. And my first day back, I went to the bathroom and cried. Like that ugly cry. That get yourself together cry. That your eyes will be red and puffy cry. Why? Because it was too much. Because everyone knew. Everyone knew what I had lost and their attempts to comfort me only reminded me of a lost I wanted to forget. I would have preferred that they act “normal”– no cards, no looks, no statements…just treat me “normal”– whatever that means. To this day, I still don’t know what I wanted from others during that time.

Since then, a new normal is being crafted. New memories. New moments. New experiences. Often I want to share them with her, but I can’t– and I am okay with that reality.  Instead, I honor her daily, in my living, giving, and the way I treat others. Trust me, my Grandma continues to save folks from my verbal paws…on a regular. You’re welcome. LOL

But, my Grandmother’s death has not been all bad.

Her dying left space. Space for my personal and professional development. Space for my mom to enter in ways that were just impossible with my Grandma around. It helped me to appreciate my mom in a whole new way. Why?  Because I had to step outside of my pain to realize that I was not the only one who lost someone. I lost my Grandmother. She lost her mother. I still have my mother. She still has me. God still has us– our entire family, actually. Maybe that’s what it means when my Grandma’s favorite song says “nobody told me the road would be easy and I don’t believe He brought me this far to leave me.”

Love conquers the grave. I know it to be true. Because this happens daily, when I think, speak or write about you. Happy Birthday, Grandma. The Realist There Ever Was. The Answer To Prayers I Never Voiced.  The “isimo” of my life.

So, I’m going to bed now, but before I do:

This my prayer for anyone dealing with a loss. Not necessarily death, but the end of a relationship, job, friendship, etc. Don’t let my brevity take away from my sincerity.

I pray that you know love. Deeply. Unapologetically. Fully.

I pray that love creates a desire for you to be better, do better.

I pray that God reminds you of his infinite love and limitless potential for what He can do in your life.

I pray that you see the space and fill it with positive people, opportunities, and experiences 🙂

With love,

Ms. Maude’s Granddaughter

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