Originally wrote June 6, 2021
Yesterday my grandmother, Joan Dill-West died.
It was sudden. There was no warning. She was here one day and gone the next.
I don't know how to grieve properly, I never really have. Growing up in a family where emotions were either repressed or an explosion, I don't have anything in between. When I first found out that she was gone I was mad. I wanted to punch holes into walls. I wanted to scream and fight. I wanted to kick someone as hard as I could. I wanted to feel physical pain because pain is my drug. Suffering is my addiction.
I don't know what to think or feel, except there is a void now. A place where I held space for her suddenly feels empty. I wish there was a way to fill the hole back up, to plug up this piece of me where the tears seem to flow from now.
I was so much closer to my grandmother than to my mother. Grandma always accepted me as an adult. She didn't judge me. She didn't question my choices. She just loved me. When I told her I was writing books, she hoped one day she'd hold a published copy in her hand. When I told her I was moving to Washington DC she hoped she'd get to see the cherry blossoms in the spring with me there. When my sister and I took her to see her sister in Kansas for Doris's 99th birthday, she went along on the adventures with an open heart.
Now she's gone and I don't know what to do. I don't know how to express this mess. I want to be mad, mostly at my mom, but I'm not. The anger I held for my mother is gone. Instead there is sadness there, because I can see how broken she is. She doesn't talk to me for months and then suddenly calls and tells me that she found Grandma dead and that I'm the only person she can talk to, starts crying and hangs up on me. The last time I talked to Grandma (Tuesday) she said she was praying everyday that the family would make up and we would all see eachother together again. I don't know if that's possible in the way she wanted and that's alright.
Do I have regrets? Things I wished I would have said? Probably, but I can't think of anything now as I'm too close to the situation to know any better. I am glad I talked to her one last time. That I was able to tell her I love her one last time. I'm glad that my nephew Jason got to giggle and hear her voice before she left because I was babysitting him the day she called.
She died alone, in her bathroom. Everyone says (including myself) that that's how she wanted to go. She didn't want to be a bother to anyone. She wanted her independence. She didn't want someone else tending to her. She went out without being a burden to anyone.
But I doubt it. She said she wanted to be around as long as possible. That she liked life. She didn't want to die, she wanted to live and enjoy as much of this experience as she could. She had taken the jab just a few weeks prior and I wonder if that's why she was taken from us early.
When I was thinking about her, I hoped that her energy was at peace, that the pieces of her, the good stuff, the tough stuff, that maybe some of her photons would eventually find their way back into my heart, that this hole would fill up with bright laughter and her perseverant spirit. That the best pieces of her could find residence within me. That she would give me strength to do all those things I've dreamt of without fear, and to be courageous as long as I live. To laugh and know when to cry, to know when to pick yourself the fuck up and do what needs done. She outlived 2 husbands, 2 children, all of her siblings. She lived long enough to see 2 great-grandson's, and just missed her great granddaughter being born (Bria West is due June 16th!). I know there is so much to look forward to, so much to be excited about.
Just before I found out that grandma had passed I was watching a video of a woman that will be going into space as part of Virgin Galactic space missions. I was crying because I felt so blessed to live in this time. A time where women can be anything, where we aren't bound by the old ways. We have become free.
When I talked to Grandma the last time, she said she had drove to Findlay to the store to buy something. The thing that was different this time is that she did it by herself, without a man, without someone going with her. At 89 years young, my Grandma did something she had never done by herself. In the scheme of things its not anything monumental really, but I said to her, "It's never too late to become an independent woman". and she said "You know, I never thought of it that way."
I wish I could hug her one last time. I wish I could hear her laughter again. Her way of just lighting up a room with her energy. I love her, and I hope that some of her energy sticks to mine. I will take her with me wherever I may go. To the stars, to the moon, to the top of mountains, into my stories, into the hearts of others. I won't ever forget the way she loved me. The way that when she hugged me, I didn't question if it was real or not. I could feel the love in me, from her heart to mine.
Our last conversation, I am so thankful it happened. I hadn't talked to her in about a month. I had called twice and she hadn't called back. I thought, I'll give it time, I know she has her life and I have mine. But then last week I began to have dreams about dying. Waking up out of breath, my chest heavy. She had told us months earlier her doctor suspected heart failure because of some of her sysmptoms, and I'm sure the jab sent her to the beyond a little sooner than planned.
If I could have said I love you in person once more. Of seeing that smile once more. Of knowing her love once more. How do I hold onto her memory without living in the last, how do I keep it from disappearing? How do I find peace with her gone? The one person in my family that loved me without conditionality?
I love you Grandma, and I hope all your dreams have come true now. And I will make sure I never give up on mine either.
May your energy stick to pieces of mine and carry me forward in this wild life.
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