Can I Just Say…

I woke up this morning to so much negativity. Even the sky felt heavy as it dropped fat, splatting raindrops, filling potholes and cracks in the sidewalk. Yet even when I stared down the street at the depressed houses whose wooden sidings were soaking up the dampness, I still saw silver in the clouds above and thought today was going to be a good day. I breathe bigger when I drive through my town. I pull it inside me and inhale it completely. When I leave this life, there will be much of me left behind in this place and I am bound to it. If there is anyone out there whose heart is tied as tightly to this city as mine, I have yet to meet them.

Yet I witness exchanges daily that break my heart. Attacks on my home, slighting comments that dig at the flaws and exacerbate the sins of our neighbors. Things like,

“um, this city isn’t all that friendly. a lot of crime, drugs, and people on the registry.”

“welcome to high utility rates, soaring property taxes, aged housing, and a minimal selection of part time minimum wage jobs!”

“Bay Shitty blows, can’t wait to get out of here.”

and various other attacks solely based on religion that I won’t bother to give the validation of repetition or response.

And to those disgruntled neighbors, I implore, “why are you still here?” And I want you to really understand what I’m asking when I ask why you are here.

What is your purpose? What is your plan? It is plain to see you can identify the negatives – now what are you going to do about them? Continuing to point out the obvious does nothing but exacerbate those blemishes until they are a full-blown cancer, infecting the community with dissent and suspicion and killing the faith we have, not only in our leaders, in the people we had the opportunity to choose right into office, but in each other. In times like these when we are beginning to realize that we cannot depend on the government to take care of us on the most basic levels, it is more important now than ever before that we band together and become a community network again. Before we had OPTIONS of charitable assistance, we had each other. We had neighbors.

I say OPTIONS because I refuse to call them entitlements. That word has mutated into something negative, something shameful and selfish, which is the complete opposite of what the word means. Entitled means that someone should simply have those things – and I believe that basic needs such as food, shelter, clean water and basic health care are things that everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender, orientation, disability, even criminal record… should have. Because regardless of our beliefs and our behaviors, we are still human. If you want to sit at your pulpit and spout Psalms and Proverbs at others, remember to look down at those pages once in a while and read them yourself.

This week alone, I have redirected several calls from desperate people in need of the basics. Turned away by faith-based charities for not fitting the image of their “mission.” Rejected by their neighbors because of the scarf on their head, or the shade of their skin, or the sound of the musical words coming from their throat, maybe in a song they’ve not heard before. Since when are the things we don’t know yet, things we automatically fear? As children we are encouraged to explore the unknown. How many public service announcements, how many PBS specials, how many classroom videos have started their message with a shooting star… “The More You Know!”?

I ask you, where did you go? It seems we all got lost somewhere between “all you need is love” and “then they came for me, and there was nobody left to speak up.”

Bay City, I will speak up for you. I will champion you because I know you are capable, you are deserving, and you are, at heart, the most “home” I will ever find.

I wish you could say the same. I wish you could see the bits and pieces of that beautiful tapestry I see. I wish the sun shone for you as brightly as it sparkles for me across the water of our river. I wish the buildings of the past hundred years would rise up to greet you as they do for me every morning. I wish the church bells that ring across the town sang the songs of your soul as they do mine.

And if it does not, I beg of you, please… go find what you’re looking for. If it is not here, I again ask you, why are you here?

Find the serenity to accept the things you cannot change. Sometimes that means changing your attitude about them. Sometimes that means exploring it further and gaining a broader perspective.

Be courageous and change the things you can. If you want to see better things, do better things. Be a better person today than you were yesterday. When you are struck down, thank your hardships for the lesson and meet them as worthy opponents next time.

Have the wisdom to know the difference. This is where we seem to struggle:

Anything can be changed for the better. ANYTHING. We are Americans, we are human beings, we are lovers and fighters and neighbors. We are all in this together.

GOOD MORNING! – xoxo ❤

Unrest.

 

This is where “home” meets “lost.”

I keep you inside a museum where my faith used to be. I carry your memory everywhere.

But I can only find you in the empty spaces. You’re only where you used to be but you aren’t there anymore.

I wonder how long this museum will remain. I wonder if this shrine will always stand.

I just can’t seem to let you rest. I am still tugging at your shirt and loving the sound of your voice giving me one of my own.

I suppose you will always be somewhere in the everywhere else. I will still be here, in the places I wish you were.

-SMB ❤

Morning Ritual

It has been six months and I am still putting pieces back together. I have started by finding corner pieces – FGL, kids, mission, work. Slowly finding the edges. Some days are easier than others. I’ve sang in the car and not cried. I’ve crumpled to the floor in a shaking mass of anxiety. I’ve scraped my knuckles on rock bottom again but each day I keep waking up.

So there’s something.

The roller coaster I thought I had managed to disembark years ago has unexpectedly picked me up again. As I involuntarily lose my shit while I process the gaping hole in my life, I have begun to learn how to “go” with this “flow.” At least as well as one possibly can while careening through life at 150 mph without a seatbelt, or even a heartfelt desire to not fly into oblivion.

I loved her immensely and that never waned – how can I believe them when they tell me my grief will? Yet I follow the steps. Accept the things I cannot change. Build a new sense of reality though none of this seems real.

She’s always there in the dark, just as I close my eyes to sleep. She kisses me good night and wipes my tears when she’s gone in the morning. If I don’t open my eyes, it might be true.

here’s a short piece I wrote about what happens when I open my eyes. the sun always rises on a new mourning.

 

Morning Ritual

embedded in the silver lining

of each day spent seeking lost faith:

your memory, the ache in this

newly-found canyon of myself.

the burning star I hope

to think you became

shines something fierce

in the morning sunrise; blue

meets glorious gold.

the street corners scream your name

like applause. My gratitude

for the city you left me

holds these fidgeting feet,

clenches this fist

around this heart.

-SMB 2017

 

have a good night. thank you for reading.

 

Rough Draft 1

Since I have tried to go back to paper journals, I cannot bring myself to write with honesty. I don’t have it in me to put it in ink. Someday, I’d like to lose this all and forget how bad it felt during the time of my life when the sun burnt out.

Okay, let’s get this out before I can’t remember so exquisitely and lose the details of what’s been rotting in the carcass of the soul I had before everything fell apart.

I have been smoking like a chimney. Part of me still very much wants to die. And because I have seen death, because I know now what is going to happen, I’m derailing myself early, I suppose, knowing that the inevitable is in fact inevitable. I wanted to be there. I selfishly needed to know she knew how much this hurt me. Because maybe she’d understand how much I loved her. It was fucked up but it’s how I felt I needed to honor her. I just needed to hold her hand.

But I saw something that

I can’t even say it. I can’t even tell you what it did. I watched her die and I felt every drop of faith I’d had in anything go down the drain. It was gone. It felt like my insides just stopped and I could do nothing. I had to go on with nothing. I still had so much in my life and so much to live for.

But I felt nothing. And let me tell you what nothing feels like: it’s fucking awful. It’s the saddest, angriest, most awful hurt in the pit of someplace so deep you can’t even comprehend. How is a person so much a person that they hurt so infinitely? Like every cell is so cold it burns. Like the galaxy that was inside you just burst and burnt out. The lightbulbs of all the things you imagined in your mind, now blown. Just broken glass and a faint puff of smoke. What the fuck?

I could not lay my head on his chest. I could feel his heartbeat and my own would stop. I could hear it thumping, functioning, living. I could feel his chest move up and down in the most comforting way and it made a resentful lump of childish anger rise in my throat. Everybody was alive except her. All I could feel was her chest under my hand, so

I can’t find the adjective and if I could I couldn’t say it aloud for fear the dam would break.

It was still.

I wake up with a song in my head every single day. On a good day, the bells are ringing that hymn in my head, the one that will not give me peace. When the bells are ringing, I can listen. On the other days, I wake up with an ache in this newly-discovered canyon of myself and nothing makes it go away until I sing it in my head, sometimes even aloud, an involuntary hum that springs forth. Then sings my soul…

Like taking a breath you know will lead to a coughing fit. Like taking a swig of a cold Pepsi and knowing you swallowed wrong. Like knowing the train is going to hit you but you stand on the tracks anyway.

And every day, I’m finding it easier to stand still.

 

If I write it down, maybe it will go away. I am trying. I have jumped into everything I can to give me something good. I have tried to cultivate this pain into the beauty I have been told it will become. I am trying to be my own advocate.

I’ve never had a plan. I don’t now. I’ve never written a letter, and I don’t want to. But if I did, and if I had, I need to know I did it right. I need to know I left a paper trail. That I reached out and I asked. That I did not fail myself yet fucking again.

I will be okay. I know that. But thank you for your concerns, or at least for your readership, or at the very least your curiosity, while I shift in and out of the moments when I doubt it.

 

-xoxo

An elephant never forgets

“I love you in the morning,

and in the afternoon;

I love you in the evening,

and underneath the moon…”

The Elephant Show, 1984-1989 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

I waited in the tattoo parlor for an hour, nearly an hour and a half, before we were ready to begin, my skin nearly itching with anticipation of catharsis. When I sat in the chair, I watched as he carefully dropped the ink into the tiny wells, fitted the needles to the gun and with an almost agonizingly forced patience, sat still as stone as he prepared the stencil to the whitest part of my arm, the place I hold close in my sleep.

I thought about what I could display, what I could declare, what I could do to shout in polite silence how much this hurts. I wanted to carry her with me, never lose an opportunity to remember her. For 70 days, I have woken up, and she has not. That has been the first thought in my head for 70 days. I cannot wake up another day, and let that be my first thought. So I needed something good to remember.

I have too many words, and not enough skin. I wish the words I felt showed through, words that I could see. I wish I had something left to see. I can feel her, I can almost hear her voice. But I cannot see her. I have waited and I have begged. She has shown her presence in more than a few ways since her death, but I have never dreamt of her.

I miss her immensely. I am sad beyond words. I can sit here all day and think of a thousand adjectives to describe the enormity of it, but none will come close. Some days I am caught between, “please give me oxygen!” and “please shoot me now!” and this is a living hell limbo I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Last week was my 28th birthday, the end to the tremendous disaster that was 27. It was the first year I did not open a birthday card with her shaky writing. Last year, she only wrote “Barb” but I know how much effort she put into it. It was the first year I did not have a birthday cake, or share a piece with her, as we remembered all the good things her mother used to bake. It was the first year I spent my birthday standing in a cemetery, 13 years to the day she buried her mother. It rained, and I cried, and none of it mattered.

I went home, and I crawled in my skin. I slept all night and I woke up angry. I woke up thinking, if this is the first day of the rest of my life, it can be the last goddamn day for the rest of this life for all I care. I wanted to tear off my own face, to rip out my hair, to reach in and pull out the pieces of whatever was rotting inside me that made me feel so wretched.

Instead of going to work, I nearly checked myself into the hospital. I was convinced I was losing my mind. In that moment just before a spinout, as you realize that shimmer in the corner of your eye was in fact, black ice, when you argue with yourself for that fraction of a second whether or not you’re still in control of your own life – that’s where I was.

I went to work. I had to literally remind myself to breathe, to blink, to pick up one foot and put it in front of the other. I thought about my options and rationalized with myself. I gave out my most professional information and kindest advice, and helped as many people as I could. I put my best foot forward and tried to fake it til I felt it.

On the way home, I listened to the same CD I’ve had on repeat for months. The drive is the only place I can cry – so if you see a blonde in a tan SUV talking to herself through her tears, that’s probably me. As I drove into town, I turned it off. I’d had enough. I drove through our old neighborhood and I slowly passed what’s left of her house. It wasn’t the house I remembered and in that moment, I was sick and tired of having nothing left here to remember.

So I stopped at the seedy-looking tattoo parlor between two bars (the kind of place you almost want to take a selfie to send your mom just to freak her out) and I walked in looking for a price on something I’d been thinking about for a while.

Let me take a moment and plug Electric Chair Tattoo in Bay City  – the guy at the counter, Painter, looked over the wall, looked back at me, and said they’d fit me in right then and there. He also quoted me an awesome price (further on that in a sec) and introduced me to the artist, Chris. They asked for my input, asked me about what I wanted and what it meant to me, and didn’t make me feel crazy when I told them I was in a place where I really needed a professional to do the skin tearing, instead of myself.

He took his time, and made sure it was perfect. I told him, “This has to be the very best piece you’ve ever done – this one is for Grama.” I generally don’t watch as they do it. It always hurts at least a little and the thought of watching my skin literally shred in front of me makes me a little queasy. But this one was different. I waited for the sting, waited for the sharp pain that always brought me down from the high of the panic. It never came.

Instead, I found myself watching closely as each needle expertly sliced into my flesh and left behind a perfect line of ink. It was strangely satisfying to see the picture come to life on my body and become part of me. Something I could keep with me for always.

After, when it was complete and my arm was slathered in ointment to protect my new art, I told Chris we needed to square up and I was prepared for the price. After all, this was for Grama. I told him I thought she would like it and he beamed. Then he told me he had fun working on it and gave me a much lower price than he deserved. I tipped him 25% but if I’d had a spare hundred, I would have gladly handed it to him. His work is wonderful, his manner is welcoming and non-judgmental and I can’t wait to go back.

gramatat

It has been a week now since that particular panic attack. Our house has been on an emotional roller coaster, what with a dog scare, then a cat’s miraculous return, to a crashing wave of “how are we going to pay for this?!” to the sweet relief of having at least three things off my plate, having finished them this week. This is it – this is my life. This is my plate, overflowing with good intentions and bad habits. It is mine, for better or for worse, and I have two choices in which I can handle this: I can wake up every morning and remember the things that hurt, and I can go through the day slowly decaying until I fall into bed, crumbling into the mass of nerves that has to do it all again the next day; or I can wake up every morning and find something wonderful to remember to put me back on the path this entire past year has thrown me off.

Three separate people have told me this week alone that they never had a doubt in their mind that I would make something of myself. I have been shown blessings I could not explain, and received some good karma that I have to wonder if I deserve. They say it will get better. It hasn’t yet, but maybe I might start believing them.

-xoxo

barely

I am here. But barely. I am skin and bones, pacing down empty hallways with doors that lead to places I’ve already been. I’m walking in circles and can’t find the way out. I don’t know where I’m going, but this doesn’t seem to be the right place.

So I carry on, with a slight sense of confusion and desperation, feeling like something is always just over my shoulder waiting to come from behind to smother me. I feel as if, any moment, I could fall and there is no bottom, just falling.

I want to talk, but there are so many words. There are so many different needs and ideas and pressing urgencies racing through my head. I lie down to sleep and something ticks inside my ear, calling out, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” and I know that I once again will essentially be sleeping alone. It’s hard to sleep in the center of a racetrack.

So I open my mouth and sounds come out. Barely. I talk to myself and it comes clear, the yarns come untangled. But I gather them up to contribute to a conversation that includes anyone else and all I have to offer are knotted up words, stretched to fill awkward silences and so frayed anyone could see right through them anyway. I’m fine, I say. But barely.

My grandma died in May. Her name was Barb.

My grandma died in August. Her name was also Barb.

My grandma died in September. Her name was…you guessed it, Barb.

I am starting to wonder if God isn’t some deranged serial killer.

My cat ran away this weekend. Presumably, to die.

I found a long-lost friend’s obituary last night. A brother from a past life. I’ve carried a secret from him in my pocket for years and I wonder now if it would have changed his future. I’ll never know – and neither will his daughter.

It has been… a struggle. I want to say I am okay. I have gone to work, I have had good shifts and bad shifts. I have seen others struggle as I have over these past few months, and I have seen some life changes happen to people I care about that have done lasting damage. I feel as if I wake up every day to continue cleaning up the mess that was my life before it stopped in mid-August with that phone call and shifted everything in my known Universe. Maybe Mercury was in retrograde. Maybe my good Karma has been depleted. Maybe I hated God just enough for Him to start hating me back.

The last class of my degree has started. It is confusing and fairly self-guiding, which means I am basically steering without a steering wheel through a textbook and some vague Internet links. It is the last hurdle to cross before that cap is on my head and the piece of paper I’ve been chasing for the last decade is in my hand.

I want to keep going. I know there are things I cannot leave unfinished. I have things to do, so many plans. I want to accomplish things. I don’t have time to grieve. I posted the other night that I was “in a rowboat, on a churning ocean of grief. I know I’m okay, I have a boat. But sometimes I am clinging to that boat for dear life.” I need to get back to shore. I need to set my feet on solid ground again. I can’t remember what it felt like to not feel the spinning of the Earth beneath me. I feel… so indescribable that I can only assume this is what outer space might be like. Vast emptiness – and just when you think you’ve hit the end, you’ve really just found another universe of the same damn feeling.

I am alive. I am functioning. I am satisfying my basic needs – I eat, I shower, I sleep. I feed my children, dress them and clean them and tell them I love them even when I don’t really understand what those words mean right now. I am okay. But… I am barely any of those things, barely myself.

I am sad. I can’t honestly tell you, or anyone, anything else about me at this point. This is who I am, what I know. This is me, on my knees, hands out to the sky. If you can find anything to take, take it from me. I’m about to drop it all.

 

Now that it is in stone

It has been a long hiatus. Not that there hasn’t been much to write home about; it’s just that there has been so much and it has thrown me into a state of confusion so great I haven’t been able to come up with anything to say about it. There has been so much and some of it… some of it is so hard to say out loud that I can’t bear to put it on paper. I can’t bear to make it so permanent.

But now it is written in stone, an expiration date. A date of death. Below her name, etched into a granite headstone adorned with two crosses and two other names. One has a blank space after the dash and there is no one left in this world who cares if that space is ever filled. The other created necessity for the stone in the first place, and set the ball rolling on her own plan to make the next date an easier one.

Easier, as if it could ever be easy. As if it could ever truly be bearable. I am familiar with the heaviness that comes with depression. But grief is so heavy there is nothing but gravity, pulling me lower and lower until I cannot breathe, and after what I have witnessed, nothing is more terrorizing than being unable to breathe.

I don’t know how to say it so I’ll just recount it for you as I’ve babbled to myself over and over again, assuring myself this is what she wanted. This was inevitable. This was the best possible ending. She felt no pain. She told me she felt no pain, only peace. She said all of the magic words I needed to hear before the Book of Her was shut and put up on a shelf so high I could never reach. But I was there and if I can be honest for a moment let me be honest about how raw this ending was for me. I watched the person I loved most in the history of my world choke to death and it dawned on me like an apocalyptic mushroom cloud looming on the horizon that this was what was going to happen to every single person I have ever loved. In the end, we’re all going to choke to death, gasping for redemption from something we are hoping with all of the fight we have left in us actually exists.

I am sitting in my Grama Barb’s chair. It is sitting in my library near the window. Next week, I will sift through her clothes for the last time, and bring home a small box of the last things she will ever give me. I received her thank-you card in the mail, a show of appreciation for attending her funeral two weeks ago. Yesterday, I saw her grave for the first time since the last time I kissed her goodbye. I took a pink carnation from the bouquet that still bore the ribbons “Mother” and “Grandmother” and tucked it into the visor of my car. They tell me it will get easier but I cannot believe there will ever be a day I will not miss her like this.

I am sorry.

I apologize if I have already turned you off. Let me tell you for a moment about the good things I saw. Let me tell you about the secrets that were revealed that gave us much needed laughter as we waited in the lounge of the Critical Care Unit. Let me tell you of the forgiveness I witnessed and please, I hope you’re still hanging in there when I get to the part about her beautiful grin as she woke up and reached for me with both arms.

We waited in the lounge for what felt like forever. When there’s a literal timeline of the rest of your life, you tend to really feel each passing second. Sometimes, it goes much slower than you’d imagine. We waited for change, we waited for news. We waited for someone to come up, to come in, to come over, to come back. We waited for word of improvement. We waited for confirmation of fear. We waited just because we couldn’t do anything but.

We colored pictures while we waited. We ate doughnuts and talked about our favorites. Grama’s favorite was Boston Cream. Meg and I both went straight for the Bacon Squealers. It made me smile to think she sometimes gets mad at me for pointing out all the things we have in common, but during the next week, we all ended up finding at least one thing we shared.

We remembered as we waited. As we waited for the bad thing to happen, we remembered what she was waiting for. Sometimes it felt like Grandma Judy was right there with us. It was the hardest, most necessary evil I’ve ever experienced, recounting history as we waited for it to come to an end. We each had our own rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” playing in our heads, remembering the grandma she was to each of us, the mother she was, the sister. The shelterer, the gatherer, the feeder and the cuddler. The cookie-baker, the secret-keeper, the safety net, the hero and best friend.

She brought us back together. We stood in the room, all of us, for the first time in years. Everyone she had left in the world sat around the chairs and bench, stood hunched around her bedside, sat at the edge of it. The babies she loved, the last generation she started, they climbed right in her lap and she snuggled them close.

I saw more tension, more forgiveness, more fear and more relief than I think I’ve ever felt. I hadn’t seen my father cry since the last date was etched on their gravestone – the dates of his brother’s life. I still had not forgotten that particular shade of olive green, glossed over in tears. Her hand looked so soft, and his so rough, as he cradled hers gently while trying not to squeeze the tears back. I learned that if my father can be forgiven by the one he thought he could not forgive, then perhaps I can find something of that forgiveness in my own heart.

The first day was uncertain. On a scale of 1-10, it was a 3.

The next day was a waiting game. She slept, and we talked. We waited for confirmation of stability. It seemed like that was going to happen. Anyone in the room was willing to sacrifice any semblance of their own stability to lend her, should the Universe need balancing.

Friday was beautiful. I sat up in bed and rubbed my raw eyes. I had not slept. I had binge watched several seasons of Friends as I shrieked inwardly that I could not let myself fall asleep. What if I woke up… and she didn’t? I thought I could stop Time if I could stop sleeping. I check the blinking blue light on my phone. I have never been so afraid of a blinking blue light.

She’s awake.

As I walked through the door, she saw me and the most beautiful smile spreads across her face from ear to ear. An explosion of sunshine. Suddenly everything was in color again, and she was no longer gray. She was no longer that slight blue, that decaying yellow, that deathly white. She was pure sunshine and as she wrapped her arms around me she said, “Everybody loves me so much.”

Yes, Grama. Everybody loves you SO much. You are SO loved.

I wanted a few things to happen in this lifetime before she had to leave. I wanted her to see me succeed. I wanted her to see me do something good for the world, and be proud of me. I wanted her to know how very loved she was. “Everybody loves me so much.” That was the answer.

Such wonderful things have happened to me in the last month. I began my food pantry campaign on August 15. It received a lot of positive response, and I am continuing that push to restore our community. I became certified to talk people off bridges. I trained to become a crisis worker. I am going to graduate college this year and be the first of my generation to get a degree. I got a raise at work and have found so much satisfaction in the other parts of my life that when it came time to bargain with God about this, I almost felt as if I had no right.

Yet there I sat, curled into the chair in my basement, my eyes glued to the screen watching Friends unblinking, I bargained with God. I begged him, please, just give me cancer. Let me slip off in my sleep tonight and give her a little while longer. Take pieces of me and give them to her. Let me make her better. Let me take her place. Please, please, don’t punish me this way. Don’t punish her. Don’t take her and don’t break me like this. Please, God, please show me mercy.

Friday started so well. It was a false hope that carried us through to the worst gut-punch I’ve ever felt. We’ve got to let her go.

Let her go? But it looked so good. She went from a 3 to a… well, I guess I didn’t know, but it was so much better than a 3. There was talk of her going home. There was talk of long-term plans. We went from “make decisions” to “make living arrangements” to “come to Jesus.” My head spun, my stomach sank and my heart broke.

I held her hand more in the last three days than I did in the last twenty years and God, how I wish I could remedy that. I held her hand and watched the machines beep incessantly. Sometimes they beeped urgently, and my heart froze in each silence between those chirps. Was this it? Was this it?

Was this really it?

I asked her, in the quiet moments as we watched Mark Harmon save the day on the television, if she was still in there. I pointed to my head. She nodded. It was true; she was more lucid in the last few days than she had been in the last few months. Maybe she really had made her peace. I asked her if she was okay. I couldn’t bear the thought of her not understanding what was happening, like she might possibly approach the final moment wondering why we’d forsaken her. I could never live with myself if I knew that was how she felt.

So I asked her. I asked her over and over, and each time she squeezed my hand and nodded, almost with earnest. She was okay.

I pointed to my heart. Are you okay here? Another gentle squeeze and nod.

As she fell back asleep into a painless dreamland, I laid my head on the bar of her hospital bed, held her hand in mine, and we listened to Johnny Cash. We spent a long time like that and I willed the world to stop.

But it didn’t, and still we waited. I can’t explain how each minute can pass so swiftly when you’re pleading with the clock to stop – yet when you’re begging for relief, for something to happen to make this horrible limbo end, to stop dragging out what we’re all waiting for – each hour lasts an eternity.

The last night, we had a sleepover. We curled up in her room with her after everyone had left. We talked and we laughed and we waited with the worst kind of trepidation for her to fall asleep. We knew this was it, and so did she. She fought sleep and finally, the nurse came in to help. We kissed her goodnight, and I told her I loved her. She said she loved me too. I told her I loved her more, and she went to sleep.

That was the last thing she said. She said she loved me. I could not ask for a more perfect goodbye, save for no goodbye at all.

I lay over the bar of the bed for hours, holding her hand. I was determined to be with her until the end. My aunt peeled me away from her side every few hours for a cigarette break. Finally, I pulled a few chairs together and carefully laid across them. The darkness that came for a few minutes every hour or so was so very welcome.

I watched her breathe all night, the slow rise and fall of her shoulder as she lay slumped over in her usual sleeping form. I frantically remembered every wonderful thing I could about her, trying to live our time together over for the few hours we had left. Around four o’clock in the morning, I heard a quiet giggle. “Go get her, baby. Go get Aunt Shelby.”

She was on her way. She had found what she had been looking for.

Her body continued to breathe, painful and restless. The sun rose and another day began. Sometimes it baffles me how nervy the sun could be, daring to bring that morning upon us. Didn’t it realize the awful truth it ushered in? Tuesday, August 23rd was the last day she took a breath. At 10:27 that morning, she gasped and we collectively shattered. I held her hand and placed my other on her chest, feeling for a heartbeat. There was nothing but my own, pounding blood into my ears, forcing a guttural sob out of my throat.

On the way home, I pulled to the side of the road for a funeral procession to pass. I went to pieces and flung every hurt I felt at the windshield. I felt my insides churn and wrap themselves into a tangled knot. I screamed at God and I died inside.

So I have not written for a while. The last time I attempted to sit down and write an update, it began like this: Today feels like the first day of a wonderful new life.

I have always measured my life in Befores and Afters, but this… this was never an After I could comprehend and here I am, waking to each new day with the confusion of an abandoned kitten, wondering when the lady with the gentle hand and the saucer of milk is coming. I have woken up and gotten dressed to go have breakfast with her. I have driven down the road to spend a few moments with her. I have listened to the last voicemail she left me over and over and over, and I still cannot believe she is gone.

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I am a balloon. I am floating, I am weightless. My mind is in the clouds. I am empty inside and floating along, putting in time until I see her again. Just a balloon… and all it would take is one pinprick to destroy me.

I have to stop now. I want there to be more. I want to share everything about her with the world, at least a little bit of the magic she shared with me. It has taken me a few weeks to come up with these words. Today, this is all I have. I hope I shared something to make you think, and I hope you’ll go hug your grandma. Thank you.

-xoxo