“Every morning, I wake up and forget just for a second that it happened. But once my eyes open, it buries me like a landslide of sharp, sad rocks. Once my eyes open, I’m heavy, like there’s to(o) much gravity on my heart.” – Sarah Ockler
I honestly didn’t know whether I wanted to write and publish this post. I have never posted anything so personal, so publicly. Especially on this blog where almost everything is positive and light. But I don’t know how to cope with grief and loss, and I can’t express my feelings and thoughts verbally without bursting into tears and struggling to swallow past that lump in my throat. I was always much better at writing.
It’s okay to skip this post. I don’t mind. I know this isn’t my usual, and this post is heavy with emotions. I just needed a place to speak.
Friday morning began like any other morning. I was sitting at Starbucks writing an email request to one of my offices asking for the second Monday of July off so that I could spend more time with family. My grandma’s birthday is in July, and every year it’s a big event where uncles, aunts, and cousins fly in from LA, New Orleans, and sometimes even Hong Kong for her birthday dinner. We always dress up in cocktail attire for her birthday. It’s the family event of the year. And I always want extra time off to hang out with family I haven’t seen in awhile.
This year was going to be huge. Almost the entire family planned to attend. Plane tickets were just purchased. With five children and their spouses, nineteen grandchildren plus spouses of those married, and eight great grandchildren, “almost” is a big number. My grandma’s great grandchildren were all going to be in one place for the first time. Since our grandma hasn’t met any of them yet, it was definitely going to be exciting, rowdy, and fun.
Late Friday afternoon as I was finishing up writing notes for work, I checked my phone and saw group text messages from my cousin about an hour before. My sisters and my two cousins from San Jose grew up together. You’ve seen photos of the five of us together in the past. We’re so close, like sisters, so we always talk through group chat.
“I need you all to call me!”
“Everyone call me!”
“Drea call me when you get home”
I quickly texted back, worried, wanting to know if it was Grandma. She had been sick the last two days so when I saw those messages, it was the first thing I thought of. Is it Grandma?
I received no response.
I waited until I was completely done with all my notes and left work to call my sisters and cousins to find out what was going on, but no one answered their phones or texted me back. And I had a sinking feeling. I started to suspect that something was terribly wrong, that whatever it was, they didn’t want to tell me until I was home.
When I reached the front of our house, I saw my dad’s car out front. He was supposed to be at work! He wasn’t supposed to be home for another few hours! And I knew. I didn’t need anyone to tell me… I knew.
I am so grateful that my grandma passed away quickly and peacefully. It was her one wish as she grew older. Her worst fear was being a burden to her family.
But as selfish as it is, I wish that she held on a little longer. That way we were better prepared, that way we had a chance to say goodbye.
Just a few days ago, I had wished that I could turn back time so that I could be on vacation again. Today, I wish I could turn back time because I would get to see my grandma again. A week ago, I was sharing photos of my vacation with her, laughing, joking, and listening to her tell stories about her cruise trip many years ago.
I didn’t think it was the last time I’d see her.
This entire weekend felt surreal. I kept checking my phone to see if it were all real, or if it’s just a terrible nightmare I’d wake up from. Walking through her house was difficult. My grandma was always full of life. She was loud with no sense of an indoor voice. Her idea of a whisper is my idea of speaking normally. You will always know that she’s home and when she’s awake.
It’s so quiet now. I walk into her room to pick out her favorite clothes for the upcoming funeral and burst into tears.
I look at the photo books I’ve made of her birthdays for the past seven years and know that there’s not going to an 8th book. Grandma loved to show off her family so I made those photo books for her. I thought it was easier for her to pull these small books off the shelf than having to pull out stashes of photos each time.
I’m devastated that she couldn’t hold on one more day so that she could see, or view through video, her newest great grandson, who was born less than 24 hours after she passed away.
Or that she couldn’t celebrate my 30th birthday with me in two weeks. Instead, we will be planning her funeral for the day after.
Or that she couldn’t see my cousin graduate from pharmacy school in May.
Or that she will miss her birthday this year when so many of us were planning to attend. She loved when we have huge family gatherings, and this was going to be the biggest. Just imagine all of us in one house!
Or that she will miss the same cousin who is graduating getting married at the end of the year.
2017 was supposed to be the best year ever, filled with so many milestones and life events. And now, I’m at a loss.
My sisters, cousins, and I talked about having a mini pizza party in honor of Grandma. Grandma was obsessed with pizzas. She was always craving it. To the point whereI created a Pizza Hut account with her saved order. An account that I only use when she tells me she craves pizza. Maybe that’s what we’ll do for her funeral. Have a huge pizza party afterwards.
It’s just so hard these past few days. The quiet is unbearable. I just always think that I’ll see her rolling her cart down the hallway or hear her voice on the phone. I miss hearing her admonish me for buying her clothes or treating her out to eat and not letting her pay me back.
As silly as it sounds, I thought she would live forever. That she would be there when I got married, when I have kids.
She was taken away so unexpectedly, and I miss her like crazy. This past weekend, we acted like she was still around. We set the table for dinner with a bowl of rice and chopsticks where she used to sit and called her to eat, just like we always did.
This new normalcy is so hard…
Hold your loved ones close. Enjoy and savor every moment.
Miss you, Grandma. <3