Roughly a year, one month and four days ago, I lost a guardian angel.
This would be my first time battling grief. This angel’s house smelled of cooked meals, sounded like laughter and always felt like love.
This angel is my grandmother, a person I wish and pray almost every day I could say hello to again.
I remember I was relaxing on my roommate’s futon when I got a call from my dad and thought nothing of it. Because of COVID-19 and quarantining in Michigan away from my family in Georgia, I called and FaceTimed my parents often, so I thought this would be a routine call until I heard the impossible: “Simone, your grandmother passed away this morning.” My hearing dwindled, my breath shortened and everything seemed to fade away as I simply responded, “What.” I just spoke to her, she was fine.
Tears streamed down my face after the call ended. The first thought that I can remember was, I was supposed to call her yesterday.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone even though I knew the whole family was feeling the same way that I was, except I was in Michigan while they were in Georgia. All I wanted to do was sit on my twin bed, wrapped in my fluffy blanket and cry. I felt alone. I didn’t have my mother’s calming words, my brother’s hand wrapped around mine or my father’s arms to hold me. I had nothing.
Why her? How did I not know? I should have called her. Why did I have to be in Michigan during this time?
Thankfully, I was able to go back home, which was bittersweet. I hadn’t seen my family because of COVID-19, but the circumstances made my joy during the plane landing quickly turn into sadness. I wanted to believe that the call was a dream and I was coming home to visit my family. More than anything, I wanted to believe as I stepped into her house that I would hear her familiar “hi darling,” her “oooh have you grown” or her “how’s Michigan” in a twang that would remind anyone of her Southern roots. Because I knew I’d never hear it from her lips again, it felt unfair to be in her space. I didn’t know what to do with myself as I brushed my fingers against her dinner table. Nothing felt right.
I cried for months at the mere mention of her, the funeral or sometimes even home. I wanted to call her after a hard day. More than anything, I wanted to be back home with my family instead of thousands of miles away in Michigan. Nothing felt right.
I miss her, but I will never forget how her hugs feel, how her words of encouragement sound and how her spirit makes me feel even today. Nothing about her was ordinary and she made sure she spread that to everyone that met her. Every Thanksgiving, neighbors would visit her house with a quick, “Hi Mrs. C.B.,” her initials, knowing they would leave with a warm meal and warm words to accompany it. She was a light to everyone in her town and beyond it. She used to be a schoolteacher, and as a student now I know how impactful teachers can be. I knew she had a heart of gold when twenty-plus years had passed and her former students still reached out for her soft hands. Even at the funeral I was mind blown at how many past students came to remember her, her legacy and to remind us that we are her living legacy. I hope to have a living legacy just like her one day.
I would be lying if I said talking about listening to that phone call didn’t make me cry and that’s okay. My only way of moving forward is by doing everything I can to make her proud even from above. I know she was selfless, beyond loving and a teacher to all. She once said, “Lord, I hope that I made a difference,” and I know firsthand that she did. Every heart she touched is a little better. Grief is normal and I prayed every night that I would never lose her presence and I know even now she’s still my guardian angel. More than anything, none of us are alone in grief and our reach in life is way further than we can imagine. Grief taught me that every word matters, and that our inner strength, my inner strength is resilient. I know my grandmother lived every day purposefully and life continues on whether we want it to or not. While pain is uncomfortable and I’ll never be the same after an experience like this, I know I’ve only grown stronger, more loving and full of life as I try to make her proud each day.
Grandma, I love you, always and forever.
MiC Columnist Simone Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.