My grandmother was my whole world. I lived the majority of the first bits of my life with her every single day. I was her favorite and it showed through. Growing up with her in my life and having her present almost every single day made her more of a mother figure than anything else. I have so many memories that I cherish so deeply because I only have so many. She was in my life for a short time, but during the short time, she showed me how much she loved me. I am grateful that though the memories are few, they are grand. My grandmother was a nail technician who ran a business out of her own home. She loved to dance and she loved to laugh. There was always music blaring at any time of day. She was the life of the party at all times and she was well-known for having such a beautiful personality. I always wanted to be around her. Every moment of every day.
She had this distinct way of saying my name. Some days I wish I could just hear her say it again. Just once. Or that I can hear her laugh just one more time. This loud squawk of a laugh that was infectious to those around her. If I could just hear that once more, I would be content.
For anyone that has ever met my grandmother, or even spent a large amount of time with her, they would know that she hated the idea of getting old. And she most certainly hated the idea of being overweight. She was barely through her 40’s and she refused to get any wrinkles. She had a certain beauty ritual she followed to ensure this but her weight was always a struggle. She was constantly trying to look for new outrageous ways to lose weight. The day came when she finally thought she had found the solution to her problem.
Around the beginning of 2001, there was a new surgery that emerged that was strictly in the experimental stages. Many would refer to it today as Gastric Bypass Surgery. For those of you that may not know, it is a surgery that helps you lose weight at a very rapid rate. As soon as this was advertised as a possibility, my grandmother quickly leaped at the chance of being one of the first people to try it. She had to go to several meetings with doctors leading up to the surgery. One of those meetings involved her signing a waiver in the event that something happened to her. My mother was hesitant with this idea and tried to convince her otherwise. I mean, it’s a scary thought to walk into a meeting with your mother and think of the possibility that she may not survive through something like this. I don’t think that anyone likes to be put in that position. But my grandmother persisted because she had this dream of having an ideal image.
She was beautiful. And I only wish she really knew how beautiful. She was always so well dressed. She loved to wear makeup and jewelry. He nails were always done and her hair always styled. Regardless of this, she went through with the procedure. Everything looked good the day she went in and before we knew it, the surgery was done and she was ready to go home to begin her recovery process. My grandmother wasn’t exactly the healthiest person due to her severe asthma and diabetes that she had battled with for most of her life. Her idea was that this surgery was going to be the solution to all of those problems. That her weight loss would be good for her.
The day they sent her home, we got a call that she had to be rushed back to the hospital. She had gone into toxic shock. Everything she consumed was just leaking into her system. Unfortunately, the doctors did not check for this immediately. Instead, they believed that it was an error of the procedure so they decided to operate her in a different way. It wasn’t after the second surgery that the doctors realized what the real problem was.
This left her in a coma for the 13 days. During that time, my grandmother woke up only once and it only lasted a short time. She told us that she loved us. My great-grandfather, who was a pastor, was there at the time she woke up from her coma. He spoke with her and prayed with her and was able to lead her to the Lord in those few short moments. As soon as this happened, she slipped back into her coma. She only lasted 13 days before she passed away.
I remember the night of her death excruciatingly well. When we got the call, my brother and I were getting ready for bed in our room. We were watching a movie and laying down on our bunk beds when we began to hear this whaling from the other room. My brother and I commented to each other that we thought our mom may have been laughing since that wasn’t an abnormal occurrence in our home. After a few minutes of this, we started to become worried. Laughing started to sound a lot more like hysterical crying so we both got up to see what was wrong. When we walked into our living room, my mother is sitting on the couch with her hand covering her face; crying. She had the phone in the other hand and someone was talking to her. I think at that moment I just knew. There could only be one reason my mom could be reacting that way. If I could recall the exact words that were said at that moment, I would. But there was such a rush of emotions that night that I think I had gone into a little bit of a shock.
My mother’s closest friends were the first to arrive at our house. I remember them trying to console us but the tears just flowed and flowed. That same night, my parents left me and my brother with my other grandparents (my dad’s parents). I remember that being such a weird experience. All I wanted was to be with my grandmother. I didn’t want to be there in that moment. My whole world had come crashing down and it was a lot to process.
I was only 10 years old when she passed away. During the time she has been gone I have had so many people tell all kinds of things like – “time heals all wounds”, “the pain you feel will pass with time”, “it’s okay, she’s in a better place.” None of those things are comforting to say and none of those things relieve my pain. Being that young, I had never experienced anything like that. I had never had a death in my family let alone having it be someone I was incredibly close to. I didn’t know how to cope with it then and I am not so sure I am coping well with it now. I am now 25 years old and can say that none of those things people said are true. Time does not heal all wounds. The wounds are still there because the loss is still there. It doesn’t get any better, you only learn how to ignore it. I still struggle very much with her death. Fifteen birthdays have passed by without her. I got married and she wasn’t able to be there for it. My daughter was born and all I can think about is how she will never get to be in her life. She’ll never get to see her grow up and Arianna will never get to know her. So many milestones ahead of my life that will go by without her by my side. Life will go on and all that will be taken with us is a memory.
How exactly does time heal that wound? Everything that happens in my life is a constant reminder of what will never be. I don’t know what life would have been like if she was here today. And it’s probably selfish to think she’d be better off here with us because that’s what would make me feel better. But the bible tells us to think differently. This life is just a vapor. A small time on this earth and in this body to foresee a big, better time in heaven. To have eternal life is the reward we pay for the price of our life. While it is an unbearable pain for us here on earth, heaven promises eternal life but above all, it promises peace. And I long for peace.
“17. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18. as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 English Standard Version (ESV)