I wrote this at the end of 2014, which was an arduous time for me. I was realizing that the Master’s program I was in was not something I wanted to continue, I was broke, and more terrible thoughts inhabited my mind than positive ones. Then, my grandmother passed away.
This past week has been full of sadness, heartache, loss, and more importantly, family. While I prepared for my 8-hour drive last Saturday, I tried telling myself not to think about why I had to travel to Maine. I tried telling myself not to think about my dad’s voice on the phone that morning, telling me that my grandmother was now in a better place.
I have always found that sentiment peculiar – that those who have passed on are in a better place. I don’t find it peculiar because I am not strongly religious; rather, I find it peculiar because I believe the best place for my loved ones to be is right here with me.
As I drove northward, my thoughts were swirling with thoughts of my family, my grandfather, and of course, Gram. Early on in my travels, I mostly felt regret for not visiting Gram more in the last few years. But honestly, I did not dwell on that too much.
Why? Because for the past 4 years or so, my grandmother has not been the grandmother I want to remember. She still physically existed, but her loving soul and a majority of her sharp mind did not. This is why I don’t let the previously mentioned regret overwhelm me. I am at peace with myself for stopping my visits, because I choose to think of the memories I hold so close to my heart, rather than the more recent memories that pain me when they enter my mind.
What are the memories I want to think of? What do I want to remember?
I want to remember Gram spoiling me, Kristy, and my cousins – whether it was giving Kristy coffee as a treat at age 4 or laying out blankets on the floor so a bunch of us could watch TV together.
I want to remember the times spent at the kitchen table, eating breakfast with Gram and Gramps, and helping Gram make her infamous donuts – although most of the help related to eating them.
I want to remember the annual Christmas parties, and helping Gram decorate the tree with homemade decorations and sparkly tinsel.
I want to remember Gram and Gramps’ 50th Anniversary party at camp, and although I was too young to appreciate it then, I want to remember how much love was and still is between them.
I want to remember how patient Gram was, and how her hugs and words were always full of love.
I want to remember these times.
I want to remember the days and years when Gram could remember me.
I know that I will always feel a sense of heartache when I think of my Gram. And I will always feel for my father, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, and all of my extended family and the people who were touched by my grandmother’s life when I think of my own heartache. We all lost an important part of what made us who we are today.
But I will not dwell on that heartache, and the unfairness of this significant loss. Instead, I will think of the memories I cherish and how lucky I am to have such a strong and loving family. I find peace in the knowledge that Gram is no longer suffering, and that she is truly in a better place; although I miss her like crazy.
I like to walk with Gram,
she takes small steps like mine.
She never says “let’s hurry-up!”
she always takes her time.
I like to walk with Gram,
her eyes see things like mine.
Shiny stones, a fluffy cloud,
stars at night that shine.
People rush their whole day through,
they rarely stop to see.
I’m glad that God made my Gram
unrushed and young like me!
-“Walk with Grandma” by Anonymous (with three modifications).
I’m publishing this here today because it is the Summer Solstice, June 21st – the longest day of the year. For individuals with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, and families whose loved one lives with the disease (often the last two are one in the same), their diagnoses and responsibilities don’t pause for summer plans. To honor them, to show support, and to aid in research and the fight to prevent and stop this disease, the Alzheimer’s Association has created #TheLongestDay fundraiser. You can learn more about it (and consider making a donation) here, and then grab some friends to take part in a favorite activity, community service project, or reach out to family members or those you know who are caregivers to check in with them, chat, and/or make plans to visit. You can also sign up an Alzheimer’s Walk team and take part in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s here.
Thank you for reading.