It is strange to visit a place full of dead bodies that have decomposed, or are in the process of decomposing, and think about your loved ones in this way — no longer breathing the fresh air above the ground they now lie beneath.
When I kneel down in front of her, my eyes fill with thunderstorms and my body shakes like a hurricane. My mind is spinning like a tornado, but the world that surrounds me would appear cheerful to any other person; the sun bright and beating down on the green grass below, complimented by the blue sky that is so clear — it almost seems ironic.
Her favorite painting was Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss.
A few days after her funeral, my mom and I went to her house to start going through her things. We didn’t know how to start; when we walked into her bedroom, her closet, her office, it was as though she had just left it for a few minutes and was going to be back any second.
We touched her clothes, clothes she had just worn the week before, clothes she had just bought the week before with intentions of wearing. We touched her makeup, her millions of shades of lipstick, so numerous that, if she were there, we would have made fun of her for owning three of the exact same color.
When we walked into her office I saw a planner for 2014 on the front of her desk with a picture of The Kiss on the cover. I opened it up to find it blank, which wasn’t a surprise considering she passed during the first week of January.
It broke my heart to see that she had bought a planner for the new year because it made the fact that she had had no idea she was going to die so clear, and I thought about how she should have had this year and next year and the year after that to fill out her days in a little book that had her favorite piece of art on it.
I have always been close with my mom. She is my best friend, my rock, my heart. With a street education straight out of Queens, N.Y., and a formal education from Cornell University, she’s the strongest, toughest and smartest woman I know.
When Grandma died, it was the first time in my life I saw her weak. I had never heard her cry so hard and I had never seen her emptier than when we were in the car on the way to the funeral. She looked over to the driver’s seat where my dad was sitting and I heard her say she thought she was going to be sick.
When we got to the funeral home, a man who worked there asked us if we would like to see her body and I declined because I refused to have my last sight of her be lifeless and pale. I watched my mom follow the man, and over the loudspeaker that bled into the waiting room I could hear her scream “Mom” as she sobbed into my father’s shoulder.
After that day, I never took a second with her or any member of my family for granted because that sound of her screaming echoes in my mind, and that memory makes me sick and I realized that I really do not think my soul would be able to handle it if anyone else who I loved died. I know this is completely unreasonable, and I know that everybody dies, but the mere idea of losing someone else makes me feel crippled and shaky and paralyzed.
No one ever tells you how strange holidays and birthdays will be without someone who has been at every celebration for as long as you can remember.
When my 17th birthday came — four months after my grandma passed away — I did not realize how much I would miss her presence on my birthday until I got a card five days late with my name on it that was sent from her address — but inside was a plain check for $50 sent from the man she was married to instead of a day spent making memories together like we used to do, every single year.
For my 15th birthday I asked for a Polaroid camera. She got it for me, of course — she loved to spoil her grandchildren and I was no exception.
I asked my dad to do the honor of taking the first picture — a picture of me and my mom; I told him to look through the little viewfinder eyepiece and to be careful because he only had one shot at taking the picture. He pressed down the little button on the top and the camera flashed and as he handed it back to me with the small picture that had instantaneously printed out, I set both the camera and the picture down on the kitchen counter to wait for the picture to develop. I cannot recall where I went or what I was doing but 10 minutes later when I came back the camera was gone.
I stormed into my then 9-year-old brother’s bedroom, (somehow I knew he was guilty), to find him with my camera in his hand and I saw that he had just taken a picture.
I yelled at him for taking what was mine and I asked him if he knew how much the film cost and I asked him what exactly I was going to do with a picture of Grandma just sitting on his bed, a picture that I wasn’t even in.
I misplaced the picture of my grandma.
I wish, I wish, I wish I could have saved that picture because God, I remember now that my grandma really looked so pretty simply sitting there, flashing her gorgeous smile, and having that tiny picture would now mean so much more to me than any of the other pictures I took with those girls who I am not even friends with anymore, or with the stupid boy that cheated on me, or of the ice cream cones from that place down the street that I now realize are upsettingly replaceable.
Shoes are so personal. Someone puts their whole body, their whole being, their whole weight into two pieces of wardrobe that they take with them everywhere they go. Traveling, to the supermarket, shopping, exercising.
She always had the best shoes.
One of my favorite parts about myself has always been that I fit into her shoes. After her death, I inherited all of them. There must have been 50 pairs.
It is always a weird feeling when I buy a new pair of shoes and when I wear shoes that weren’t hers. God, I wish they were.
As a little girl, I would have dance recitals that my mom would always invite my grandma to come see and when I got on stage in my little black tap shoes to perform my routine, my eyes would search the audience, until I found her and the signature bouquet of roses in her hands that she always brought for me.
They were the prettiest flowers.
My mom would put them in a vase next to my bed and they would last about a week before they began to wilt, until one day I would walk into my room and they would no longer be there.
My mom loved to clean up.
I now think about the flowers that are brought to my grandmother’s grave and I think about how one day it was her that was no longer there, and when everything comes rushing back I think about how comforted I felt when I would look out into the audience and see her face and her lipstick-painted smile beaming at me. I remember how she looked at me and I remember how she loved me and it makes everything worse and everything better at the same time.