Yesterday marked 15 years since my grandma passed away. Letting her go after her sudden heart attack was a difficult process; she was a significant mother figure to me and an important teacher. Through her words and actions she taught me about resilience, faith and the power of a great story. Losing her was a shock that I worked hard to move through during my second year of marriage and grad school but the show did go on. Over the years I have remembered her fondly, kept her photo in my writing studio, and smiled to myself at memories that hover briefly like hummingbirds.
Two days ago, however, Grief showed up and filled the entire doorway. Barged in without a knock. Pinned me to my desk with giant hands pressing my shoulders. I couldn’t move. I wasn’t permitted to do anything except feel my heart ripping again. From deep inside me, from the fleshy parts where memories reside, spilled tears I didn’t know I still had for her. I sobbed with my head bowed. I had no choice but to succumb, understanding that this would pass but, for that moment, Grief was calling the shots.
When I was done, when I could inhale and exhale without dissolving again, I reached for a blank sheet of paper and wrote:
Tomorrow is 15 years since I said bye to Maa. If it’s true, if there is such a thing, then when I see her next, I’ll be stepping off an elevator around the corner from her second floor apartment. Before I see her, I will know her door is wide open and she is waiting in the doorway. I will hear her hood fan, smell the spices. When I round that corner, I will see her ear-to-ear grin, her crinkly eyes, her outstretched arms. She will call my name and I will rush forward, feel her soft body, hear her chuckle in my ear. I will lean back so she can plant kisses on my cheeks. She will usher me in and then feed me omelette with cilantro, and decades of untold stories.
Essayist Anaïs Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” I had a chance that day to taste those moments with Maa again. My eyes, my nose, my cheeks, my hands had recorded every greeting with her at that apartment, and on a day that I faced the gaping hole she left, I was able to stretch out a memory and play it against the darkness like a movie screen.
If this is it, then – if this is all there is – I am thankful for it. If I never round that corner after stepping off the elevator in some other dimension where loved ones live, then at least I can do it on the page while my mind’s eye travels over the loose skin on Maa’s hands and my body remembers her.