Grandmother died last night after a few days of fading slowly. There will be no funeral or memorial service, which is what she wanted. We are her memorial: the many people she loved and left behind, each of us spending the rest of our journey on earth remembering her in whatever way we can.
I haven't lived near her for eleven years, but I already miss her. Saying goodbye over the phone to her last week was the hardest thing I have ever done so far in my life.
First, it's the actual experience of saying goodbye. Accomplished in a few difficult minutes, amidst tears and sadness, then it's over. The line goes dead, and you know you will never hear that person's voice again.
Then there's living out goodbye. No more notes quickly jotted onto a piece of paper, collecting anecdotes for my next letter to her. No more photos, carefully taken, printed and sent. No more plans for the future with her. No more questions to be answered by her. No more highly anticipated visits, rare but happy times together. Lunches and walks and card games and chats and memories shared.
And for me, there's the mental strain of sorting through those memories in my head. The fear that I will somehow forget... the exact sound of her gentle voice... her distinctive laugh... her greeting: "Hello lovey!"... everyday stories she would tell about people and events both past and present.
As my grandmother enters fully into the realm of memory in my mind, I am praying that I do not forget any of these things about her. And I'm asking you... if you knew her, help me remember! If you didn't, any creative and practical ideas from your own experience of keeping memories of your loved ones alive would be gratefully received.
Mom and Grandmother, California, 2007
photo by Alex Frederick