Thursday, June 09, 2011

Saying Goodbye

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


  1. Anonymous8:55 pm

    Oh, my thought are with you and your family, hope that you are hanging in there. I guess it's just taking each moment as it presents itself, and as you said remembering her. I don't have any experience with loosing a close grandparent, but I guess it's trying to catch the flavor of the person, mood and ambeince of being in their presence as well as what they actually said and did. I will look over my journalling books, maybe there might be something helpful there? I always try to write descriptive lists, but tht seems too impersonal. Are ok, and when I am passing the cathedral I will light a candle for her, much love to you xxxx

  2. Erin, I am so sorry. I lost my grandmother in body almost 15 years ago. It was so difficult at first..not being able to pick up the phone, or have her visit me and stay for a few days.
    There was a void and the constant shock that came in waves when I remembered that she truly had passed on.
    You won't forget her voice. I can still hear my grandmother's voice when I close my eyes and think of what she would say in a certain situation. She had her own unique expressions and I found myself slowly using them as the years went by.
    Sometimes I will pass someone on the street or in a shop and I will smell her beautiful scent.
    The day after she died, she came to me in a dream. It felt so real.

    I could feel her cheek against mine and I didn't want her to go. She then said, " you know I love you, my love" and I woke up.. I was empty but I was also filled because I knew that she truly had visited me and said goodbye.

    Her death had been sudden and a shock so I've always been relieved and comforted that she found a way to say her goodbye.

    Memories of people who mean so much to us and have played a huge part in our lives, don't fade.

    They change form but they remain in memory and in smells and traditions and there is comfort in the fact that they go somewhere else to start another stage to their lives.

    My heart goes out to you. All the words in the world won't take away the process you have to go through but I know you will be comforted through your memories and through your family and through God.


  3. I'm so sorry. I lost my grandfather a few years ago and I can still remember his voice whenever he greeted me: "Hellooo, Lis." How I miss him.

    Write these things down - all the memories you can. When new memories sneak up on you at the most unexpected moments, write them down, too.


  4. Erin, my thoughts are with you. There are no great words to offer in times like these, but good thoughts will be coming your way for some time.

  5. Thank you... these were really comforting, encouraging words to read from all of you! :)

  6. Dear Erin,

    I am so sorry for your loss. I enjoyed knowing your grandmother so much. She loved her family and had such a wonderful sparkle in her eyes when she talked about you and your children.

    You will not forget her and I think one of the best ways is to share your memories with your little ones. Tell them all about her. You have such a talent for writing-- write about her and keep this for all the little great, great, great... grandchildren that will know her from your memories.

    My mother died May 7, and my Uncle that I grew up with died last Sunday. My grandparents died years ago-- I still "hear" them and "see" them in their little descendants and clearly in my mind.

    My sympathies and best wishes to you and all your family, always.

    Libby (from the good ole' Carnegie Public Library in Washington}

  7. Thank you so much, Libby! I'm sorry to hear about your uncle and mom. Living life one day at a time and enjoying each moment was something Grandmother did well and I'm trying to slow myself down and follow her example.


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