Every time I push publish on a new post, I have a moment of feeling sick to my stomach. I feel panicky and trauma-y and question what in the actual f*ck I just did. Why do I make this choice? Why do I feel a call to share all of this? Why in God’s name am I the way that I am? I know that I’m talking large, existential questions here. All these feelings. So many feelings. They take me up, down and all around.
The only way out is through. This is my mantra and my battle cry.
My grandma passed away on March 19th, and I don’t really want to talk about that. The realness of that statement makes me feel like I might implode. Despite not wanting to talk about it, it’s one of those things that must be talked about. I don’t want to talk about because I don’t agree with it. I miss her and I wish she was still here.
It was sudden. It was unexpected. While logically I can understand that it was exactly what was supposed to happen, and while my faith is strong, and while I am absolutely positively certain that every single thing happens in divine timing and with absolute perfection, my heart aches with her loss.
People ask me how I am doing. Sometimes I say I’m great! because it’s mostly true. Grief is weird and complicated. Sometimes it’s quiet and sometimes it’s suffocating.
Mostly though, I say I am fine. Just fine.
My grandmother raised me as much as my mother did. I wasn’t ready to lose her yet. I mean, it’s not like anyone is truly ever ready to lose their grandmother. Still. I just really wasn’t ready.
Remember that awards trip to Hawaii I mentioned in my last post? I went there. I had an amazing time. I won two awards for my performance in 2018. My shock at receiving these awards matched my shock at my recent promotion. This year has been full of things I didn’t see coming.
Despite its only constant quality being change, and despite all of my experience showing me that the only thing I can expect is the unexpected, life continues to take me by surprise.
Sometimes my heart breaks with the joy of my life today. It’s so ridiculously and unexpectedly beautiful. Somehow I have made it out on the other side of the darkness, all bright and shiny and with something to offer. A hope to transmit and purpose beating within my gut. The heartbreaking and the heart opening enlarges the internal well from which I am able to give. The more joy I have, the more whole I become, the more unpacking and unpeeling and healing I do, the greater is my desire to give it all away.
I’m like the largest human artichoke that ever existed. The layers to be peeled just won’t stop. Always more to be revealed, more to be healed.
My time in Hawaii was a beautiful blessing and it was at times challenging. I am the only sober one at my company. I was away from my people and my schedule and everything that gives me strength when some uncomfortable emotions come up. Life was in full swing, and as always I was navigating the joys along with the feelings. Always so many feelings.
I received the below email from my grandmother while I was there:
This scene met me when I picked up my paper yesterday morning.
How is Hawaii? Any pictures?
I am sure that you are having a wonderful time.
Enclosed were two photos of an absolutely ridiculous number of wild turkeys roaming the streets in front of her house. I mean, in all seriousness, her retirement community has a significant wild turkey issue on their hands. I read her email- and what I really mean when I say I read it is that I scanned it with half-attention- then promptly filed it away in the folder in my mind labeled: things I’ll follow up on when I get home.
Thinking about these turkeys now makes me want to laugh until my face hurts. Or maybe that feeling is wanting to sob. I can’t quite tell. Grief is weird.
I returned from Hawaii on a Sunday and went back to work on Monday. The call that she was in the hospital came on a Wednesday. Thursday morning at 3 AM I hopped in the car and made the I’m-totally-panicking-but-trying-not-to-and-everything-is-going-to-be-fine-even-though-it-does-not-feel-fine drive home to the Bay Area.
I hadn’t emailed her back. Dammit.
I sat at her bedside in the hospital and held her hand. I told her all about Hawaii. I wasn’t able to show her pictures, but I described in as much detail as I could muster. I told her about the awards I won. I told her what staying at the Ritz for my first time was like. I told her about the labyrinth I walked. I told her about the sea turtles we saw.
I kept talking, mostly to try and reach her, and partly because it felt like something I should be and needed to be doing. I told her how we- my Mom, my dog, my Uncle, and I- had been seeing those same turkeys, and hearing them gobble every morning since we had gotten into town. I described how my dog had been barking at those turkeys. I absentmindedly mentioned to her what a good boy he is.
She nodded her head in agreement.
It was one of the last times I knew that she was hearing every word I said.
On a Tuesday morning she was gone.
I’m fine. Everything is FINE.
* * *
A ring, my grandmother’s ring, now sits on my right ring finger. My whole family rests behind this ring. It’s the diamond that my grandfather proposed to her with. It’s the set of diamond earrings he gave her. It’s the second set of diamond earrings that were being added when she died. Five diamonds telling the legacy of my grandmother’s life.
I’m not supposed to have this ring yet. You see, my plan was that this ring would be my engagement ring. My plan was that my grandmother is supposed to watch me get married. My plan is that she is supposed to see me bring her first great-grandchild into the world.
I don’t have the guy yet. There’s no pending engagement. In fact, I have no idea where he is. Not a clue. I think he may be lost. God and I are still working this out between us. I need more time. Can’t the world just stop revolving so stupidly quickly for one tiny second? I need to catch my breath. It wasn’t supposed to work out like this. Not now. There’s so much more she was supposed to be around for.
I’m fine. Everything is fine.
I trust God. I trust this journey. I trust that everything is happening just as it should. I trust this process. I know how to navigate this. I know how to survive this. I know how to grow from this. I know how to love better because of this. I know how to lean in to this. I know how to let it all wash over me. I know not to fight it.
My heart is exploding from feeling, and I can’t tell if it’s from gratitude or if it’s from grief, and I think that it’s most likely both. In the same moment.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
This hurts. Prayer and meditation game strong, ya’ll.
My grandmother was an incredible woman. She was strong and she was also soft. She was the most patient person I have ever met. She made the best apricot jam I have ever tasted, and when I was a little girl we would make it together in her kitchen after picking buckets of apricots off of trees. She was good enough at Jeopardy to be a contestant. Her vocabulary was absolutely mind blowing and she was a master at crossword puzzles. She survived the loss of not one, but two, great loves of her life; first my grandfather and then her longtime partner, Jerry. She was always present and listening. She was dignified. Her grammar was impeccable. She read a million books. Her favorite color to wear was navy blue, and she looked regal in it. She looked regal in anything. She was an avid Cal Bears fan. I never saw her have more than a couple glasses of wine. She was always kind, even when she was incredibly displeased. She was consistent. She was constant. She hated it when people chewed gum. She was giving and she was selfless. She was a rock. She was an example. I pray to become more and more like her.
God grant me patience and grant me grace.
Last year we took a family trip to Kauai. I snapped a photo of her while she was reading a book out on the patio. I never showed it to her because I knew she wouldn’t have liked it. She didn’t like photos of herself. And even though I knew she wouldn’t have liked it, I took it anyway. I took it for me. A quiet and still and intuitive part of me knew to remember this.
In the last few years, during any time I spent with her, that same quiet and knowing part of me had said remember this. Always remember this. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t squander it.
I knew there would never be enough time with her, no matter how life or God planned to work the details out.
This will be my first post that I won’t receive a comment from her. There will always be a space there.
The world is full of turkeys running amok in retirement communities and it’s also full of grief. What a wild and funny and messy and beautiful life this is.
for Babban. Always.