Friday, May 8, 2015

School Pictures


I have been wanting to write. The words have been trapped inside me, threatening to burst forth. I have cried every day this week. Missing them. Remembering them. I have had the desire to explode all these feelings onto paper. It takes a lot of energy, your whole being to process grief. But I just haven't had the energy as of late. Until now.

I sit in my kitchen staring at my daughter's school picture, eyes closed, imagining my Mother's arms around me the last time she hugged me, and all the harsh realizations come flooding out. They explode out of me. The floodgate is open. They will never see her again. They will never see her play soccer. They will never be able to wrap their arms around her and see the wonder of her growing up. They will never see the wonder of my beautiful daughter, looking, sounding and acting like them. Like all the females in our family. I am now all alone. My village is broken, and gone. I am broken. My dad and I are the only ones left.  My husband and my six year old baby complete my family.  There are my in laws, and they are great, but its not the same. It will never be the same, ever again.

 I grew up with my parents and grandparents attending every single school function that I ever participated in.  Band concerts, Rainbow Girls, dance recitals, swimming, football games when the marching band played, band camp performances, summer camps, school plays and musicals.  They were all there. Always. They will never be there for her. She will never know what it is like to have my Mom, or my Nana cheer her on.  She will never see their loving faces in the crowd.

I am a master at compartmentalizing.  I thought I was okay with my Nana's death.  We were there, she lived a long full life. She was ready.  It was her time. I told her to go.  I told her it was okay, as if she needed my permission. My six year old handled my eighty-seven year old grandmother's death like a seasoned pastor at her bedside. She told Nana stories, snuggled up to her, and told her it was okay to go and meet Jesus. She learned how we treat our dying. The great grandkids were there for the learning, and the passing of the torch.  They all sat on her bed, held her hand, and talked to her, just as if she wasn't knocking on deaths door. I watched the passing of the torch to the next generation that weekend.  That day was precious. It was my Nana's last attendance at a big family gathering.  It was for her.  She passed quietly the next morning, before I could get to her from the hotel.  

She waited for me to drive to North Carolina from West Virginia, with my husband and my child. She waited for me and my daughter. She wanted to see her girls one last time. The last granddaughter she raised, and the last baby(great granddaughter) that she helped to raise, whom she adored. She needed us to tell her it was okay to go, that we would be okay. We had just been to see her less than two months before I got the call. My Auntie B, with whom she lived, called me and told me that it would be any day, possibly any hour now. She let me talk to her one last time. She woke up and had a moment of clarity from her medicine induced, dementia fueled ,mumbling, confused haze to tell me, her "third daughter" one last thing.

"I love you. Goodbye. Tell everybody up there(WV) I said bye, now don't you cry!"

I, of course lost it, right there in Kohl's, where I was Easter dress shopping with my best friend. I went to the car and bawled my eyes out. I knew right then, that it was the last time I would ever talk to my grandmother. Since I had just visited, my Auntie B excused my presence at her bedside vigil. She said I was there when Nana needed me to be.  To make some last, lasting memories with Nana. And she was right.  I had visited seven times over the last year, to make sure my precious baby had some good memories of her Nana.

It is such a surreal experience when your grandmother tells you goodbye, and you know, I mean you just know deep down in the depths of your soul, that she really means it. And it was important for her to tell me. When the woman who helped raise you, that called you her third daughter because you were so close, the only other woman who knew firsthand the earth shattering, life changing pain of losing her daughter, my mother...and who was there for me, and I her, through it all, is gone? Well as my Daddy would say, it's a game changer.  It's a life changer.  A life altering, no going back now, you are the new MATRIARCH of this branch of the family, it's shocking.

When your world changes so very much in such a short period of time, you retreat and take care of you. You take care of your broken, fragile, mental state, and that grief process that is hitting your baby? Well you shut it down, compartmentalize, and take care of her first.  Like I said before, I am a master at compartmentalizing, and a very strong woman.  I come from a long line of strong women, who I was fortunate enough to be best friends with as well.  We were a threesome, my mom, my Nana and I.  And it rattles and shakes you to the very foundation of your soul, when your village starts dying around you. Self preservation kicks in, and you take baby steps to recreate and band aid your shattered world. Then there is another year of firsts to survive. And you have to go through every single one. Mother's Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Christmas, Thanksgiving, first day of school for the new year, New Years, Valentines Day, the day of their death, etc.  A whole year of firsts, in a whole new existence you have to figure out without them. All the while, life goes on. Without them. And then you start to pick up the pieces, and figure it out.

And then you sit at your kitchen table and see your beautiful daughter's newest school picture, and realize that your baby will never really know these two beautiful exemplary women that shaped you and made you who you are today. They were your everything. She was their everything, as were you. 

You are all she has now. They are in you, and you must never let her forget them.  You promised them. No matter how painful, no matter how many tears. She will know them through all the pictures and stories you tell. She will understand how much you loved them through the amount of your tears and depth of your grief. She will cry and grieve with you! You will get through it together. She will know them through you. You are her mother. You will be everything to her that they were to you. You have big shoes to fill. And more memories rush in, a lifetime full of memories.

And your heart breaks all over again.