(My friends recommended I write about this since its been on my mind. February is a very difficult month for me. Since my grandma’s passing in 2016, this month has been hell. It doesn’t help that her birthday was in early February.)
On this day in 2016, I had to say goodbye to my grandma. I still remember seeing her alive for the last time, and it breaks my heart every time thinking about it, and it breaks my heart that the last thing that she said before I left to go pick up my sister was begging me to stay without using her words since she was too weak to speak. I promised her that I would see her tomorrow, but little did I know that would be her last day of life. Just two days earlier, we spoke on the phone and she told me she was getting a cold. The cold would eventually develop into pneumonia, which would claim her life. Perhaps I sensed something tragic was going to happen, because I told her that I loved her. I always loved my grandma, but I also had a hard time conveying affection back then so I rarely ever said I love you. I did a better job at showing it by surprising her with flowers and visiting her because I loved to see the joy on her face whenever I stopped by.
“I love you too” were the last words she said to me.
The day before she died, I planned to visit her, and I did get to visit her, I just didn’t think that she would have an oxygen mask on and be unable to speak anymore. She could barely move, she was in deep pain, and she kept pointing to the ceiling. She was ready to go, but none of us were ready to let her go even though it was her time.
One of the most agonizing things in life is watching someone you love dying and there is nothing you can do about it no matter how much you want to stop it. She was eighty-eight and lived a long life, and I knew her time would eventually come and I didn’t want her to feel anymore pain, but I also was not ready to say goodbye yet. I pleaded that somehow, someway, she would recover. I didn’t want to accept that she was already gone.
She passed away on February 13th, 2016 at 11:50pm, but we didn’t find out until the 14th after midnight. I was exhausted and planned on visiting her the next day, but then I overheard my mom break the news to my father that his mother, my grandmother, passed away. Instantly, my body shot up and we all rushed to her nursing home where the family surrounded her to say their final goodbyes and collect her belongings. Everything felt surreal. It was like a nightmare that I would eventually wake up from and she would still be there with a big smile on her face like she always had whenever her family members walked in. She would hug and kiss us and ask us “what’s new?” She would offer us everything she owns because she was always a giver, from her clothes to the food she had in her room. She would mistake me for one of my cousins because of her Alzheimer’s, but I didn’t mind because I knew she knew who I was by face. She would make me and my little sister laugh, and she would walk us to the elevator to escort us out even when she could not walk as much anymore.
When a loved one dies, acceptance does not come easy. Even through watching them wheel her body out her room in the nursing home, the funeral, and the burial, I refused to accept she was gone. For the first half of 2016, I would repress all the pain I felt from losing her. I attempted to distract myself from grieving by writing and painting, but I would still think of her in the back of my mind. I would hear her talking to me and even see her in front of me as if she was there. When I attempted to reach out for her, however, she disappeared.
I still remember that summer I worked in a movie theatre for a very brief time. One time I had a customer come up to me and ask me for water and the customer looked exactly like her. They even dressed like her and wore the hat she always wore. I gave the customer water and she walked away, then disappeared. It may have been a coincidence, but I came to a realization that I never made peace with her death.
When you love someone, two years, five years, and ten years will pass and you will still think about them from time to time. When they first pass, it’s like a hot bullet to the heart. As you mourn and go through the stages of grief, from not accepting it, to facing the pain of being reminded of them everywhere you go and living without them, to anger that they had to be taken away from you, to reaching the phases of acceptance and coping with life without them, you develop your own closure and find ways to feel close to them because no matter how close you were to someone and what your last words were to them, you never truly feel like you were ready to say goodbye to someone who you loved when they pass.
I have had some people tell me that everyone dies eventually, but to that I say that it doesn’t change the fact that when someone close to you dies, it causes you an immense amount of pain. I have also had people, such as my ex’s friends and other so-called friends of mine, say that losing a grandmother is not as tragic of a loss as a friend or closer family member such as a parent or sibling. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter how someone was connected to you or how long they were in your life, if they had a significance to you then you are entitled to grieve and no one should take that away from you because I spent enough time denying myself the chance to grieve. It did not fully hit me that she really was gone until February 2017, a whole year later, where I spent hours crying because I finally realized that my grandma only existed in my memory and photos now. I would never see, touch, or hear her again.
It has been two years, two years since she passed and I still see her in my dreams sometimes. I’ve seen her dressed luxuriously and smiling as though to tell me that she is fine, I have watched her die in my dreams again, and I have watched her come back to life in my dreams. I also am often reminded of her every now and then. I still have a hard time viewing pictures of her and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day other than buying candy for loved ones because it makes the mark since her passing. I still remember the feel of her holding my hand and rubbing it the last time I saw her before she died, and I still hear her voice from time to time.
I also still have many regrets that I have not come to terms with.
I regret not visiting her more often. I regret not speaking to her more often. I regret the times I rushed off the phone with her and how I would be eager to go home when visiting her after a while. I regret not being there for her more when she was sick, and not visiting her on her last birthday. I had work, but if I knew it was her last birthday ever, I would have made my way to see her as I had planned to. I loved and cared about my grandma deeply, but I was so wrapped in my own life I did not make enough time for her. She would look forward to seeing me, and I barely made my way to see her. Still, I could wind up going six months without visiting her, and she would still sit by her window waiting for me to come, then she would greet me outside her room with a look of excitement. She would express concern about me when she overheard about some of my relationships and when she found out I took night classes in college. Even if I was out of touch often as I got older, she still would care about me and be more and more excited to see me each time. If she heard me beating myself up over not seeing her more, she would probably hit me over the head. I have many regrets, but I am so glad I was blessed with a grandmother like her.
My grandmother made my childhood and shaped me into who I am today. She was a strong, selfless woman who moved here from the Philippines and made a life for herself. She gave birth to give kids and raised them all along with her grandkids and greatgrandkids. She would have get togethers in her house every year on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. She would welcome any of her family, friends, and neighbors into her house. She would cook for everyone, she would give you things you never thought you needed, and she never let you leave her house hungry. She cared deeply about her family and did her best to try to stay connected with every one. She overcame so many obstacles in her lifetime and became strong and independent because of it. She was kind and gentle, but she also would not tolerate anyone messing with her or her family She was a beautiful person inside and out.
She was a fighter. She was a wolf.