Today is the 15th anniversary of my grandmother’s death. August 6, 2003 (and 7th too) are days that have been buried deep down. The emotions, the feelings, the smells, and sounds of those days are buried deep in my memory. Truth is, I never really grieved her death. Occasionally, over the last 15 years I’ve allowed myself a moment or two (literally) to shed a tear or feel sorry for myself, or miss her. In my mind, I had to be strong for my mother, who was the oldest of her siblings as well as my grandmother’s primary caregiver. I had to be strong for my brother, the oldest grandchild and my grandmother’s unspoken favorite. I had to be strong for my uncles because of the guilt I felt they carried due to their distance, especially when my grandmother needed them the most. I had to be strong like my aunt. I was actually with her when my grandmother passed. She was the one that I was “sent” away with. I lived in Louisiana and it had become a tradition for my brother and I to go to Texas or Oklahoma to visit with my uncles and aunts. However, this summer was different. I was 15, I had attended summer school and met some new friends. My brother had moved out months prior. My grandmother, who had been battling brain cancer for a few years had started to deteriorate in front of my eyes. I had no desire to leave the state. None.
My mom convinced me I would have lots of fun with my aunt and that I would only stay a week. She told me that I needed the break away from all that was happening and that I deserved the short vacay because I had done well in summer school. Not that she left me with any true choice, I agreed and packed my bags for a week in Texas. Now, I feel that was my moms way of making sure that I wasn’t there when my grandmother passed away. She didn’t think I would be strong enough to handle it. The last time I saw my grandmother is somewhat of a blur. Looking back, I now realize the signs were there, she wouldn’t live much longer. Her memory had started to go in and out and some moments she would be completely unaware of her surroundings. She stopped eating, which was big.(We love to eat in my family!) I remember the evening before, my aunt talking with me, updating me on the condition of my grandmother. She had been moved to a hospice facility. I remember laying in bed and suddenly waking up. I wasn’t sure of the time, but I knew it was after midnight. I remember laying with my eyes closed, waiting on something. Moments later, I heard my aunt’s phone ring. I heard her hushed tone. I heard the deep sigh. I heard the sniffs and whimper, silence and more hushed speaking which I assumed was her praying. Finally, I heard the “Okay”. I remember my aunt in her calmest voice saying “Granny has passed and is with God now.” My aunt held me and allowed me to shed tears. She spoke a few calm, even toned words to me. I can’t remember everything she said, but I felt the need to be “strong”.
In the years after her death, the anniversary would always be hard, especially for my mom. As a matter of fact, Holidays were the worse for my mom, especially Mother’s Day! Maybe the whole month of November considering both my mom and grandmother’s birthday and Thanksgiving. Things were different and my mom grieved for a while. Things changed at home and within my family.(I may go into detail in a different blog) I lost my mother for a while, I didn’t have my brother, and my favorite aunt needed to be strong. I think people forgot that I was grieving as well. No one really asked me was I okay in the months after. We didn’t talk about my feelings much, unless of course someone else was having a hard time with her death. I never told my mom the anger I held against her because I felt she took away my opportunity to say Goodbye to my grandmother. I never talked about the jealousy that was created for my brother over the fact he was with my granny in her final moments. I never talked about the exhaustion I felt at the need to focus on school as it started a few days after her funeral. I never spoke about how I feel this day is cursed. I’ve purposely tried to keep myself busy or sleep the day away in the years since her death hoping to miss any feelings about her death.
Today, I couldn’t. Today I failed. Today I’m mourning. I’m grieving. I’m unstable. What should have been a big life changing day for me ended up being a day that I sincerely wished to be with her in death. Today, I’ve struggled and now with the strength I have left, I write. I write, hoping to get a little relief. I write to get the toxic feelings out of me. I write as a way to express what I would never say. I write because I can’t seem to have the necessary conversations with my family. I write because it’s therapeutic and I’m convinced that I’m the only one that can heal me.