Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death. This past Monday, my therapist asked me about some of my favorite memories of her.
“I remember her waiting outside the bathtub with a towel when I first learned how to shower,” I said. “Or waking up from a nap in preschool and seeing her standing beside the door, waiting to drive me home.”
I told my therapist I felt unsure about why I kept thinking of all these early memories. I had lived with my grandmother since the day I was born to my teenage years, and I visited her often when I went to college and then to graduate school. But in that therapy session, how my grandmother encouraged me to eat when I lost a lot of weight right after elementary school did not come to mind, nor did the shuffling of her feet as she struggled to walk after her Parkinson’s diagnosis in my late teen years. Instead, I thought about how she had been my safe haven in the ever-present shitstorm of my house – my secure attachment, in psychology terms.
“I sense that you made it really easy for her to love you,” my therapist said. “It sounds like you were the kind of kid who brought out that love really easily from her.”
I felt tears prick the back of my eyes when she said that. She was right. I had always been a sensitive, soft kid – quiet, easy to cry, absorbed in other people’s emotions to the point where I could watch someone else go about their day for hours without getting bored a bit. My grandmother picked up on that softness and protected it, nurtured it, always praising me for my sweetness and gentleness. I always wanted so desperately to be like my grandmother, because I grew up in the dark and she had been light and what more could you want to be than someone else’s light? What could be more beautiful?
Monday night, the same day I saw my therapist, I felt lost, then I listened to “No Tears Let to Cry” and felt better but still lost, and then I started crying. I cried because I felt so lost without my grandmother, like I sat in a dark empty room and I had touched every inch of every wall but felt not a single light switch, not the slightest hope. I felt so lost because I had a fellowship application due in less than a month I hadn’t started, and I felt so powerless at how the patriarchy has influenced a few of my friendships lately, and I just wanted my grandmother back, why couldn’t I just this world let me have her back for one freaking day. One freaking hour. A minute. A single minute. Please.
On the drive to work after my therapy session, I thought about people’s core fears, and I felt mine deep in my chest: the fear that I wouldn’t be good enough, caring enough, as exacting in my compassion as my grandmother. I wanted – I want – my grandmother back to tell me that I’m doing well. I want to know that she’s still proud of me.
“She’s always going to live inside of you,” my therapist said. “You have her lightness and her caring. I can feel it.”
I can feel it, too. As I write this, and as I have cried way more tears than I thought possible over the past few weeks, I have always felt my grandmother’s guiding light, sometimes in the kindness of a gentle mentor or the sweet melody of a hopeful song or even the beating of my own heart when I teach, or provide therapy. I still feel lost sometimes, but I know I will be okay, because every emotion is temporary, the saddest ones and the happiest ones too. And though I’m sure I will feel lost again, I know I’ve found my purpose and my path, the one my grandmother taught me to walk on: to be as compassionate to others and myself as possible. I may feel lost, and I have lots of work to do to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps, but I know, without a doubt, I will not lose my path, nor the light.
The light. Her light. It’s in me, now.
So I thought I wouldn’t write another post this year aside from my typical top 10 books of 2018, but you know, grief just has a way of hitting you when you least expect it. Rereading this post before I publish it I’m laughing at myself a little because even though I’m very similar to my grandmother, I’m also different in that I’m way more extra like I make weird chihuahua noises and scream like a banshee every so often just to keep my friends and myself entertained lol perhaps more assertive in my views now, and that’s okay. Thanks for providing me the space to share my grief process with ya’ll (not like you really have a choice because I can kinda write whatever I want on here but I do feel safe enough so thank you). Until next post. ❤