A lot has happened in the past five months that has kept me from blogging. But the most significant is the passing of my grandmother, who left us on March 11, exactly two months ago, after a brief experience with leukemia. On this Mother’s Day, I honor her and keep my promise to her by returning to this space and to writing.
She was an angel even before death gave her wings.
Did you know when you faded that the void left by your absence would be so vast that I would not even be able to feel it? Like gravity, it would pull down down down upon all of me without my consent or awareness, enveloping everything with its subtle, unbeatable downward force. Even the heart is weighted by gravity.
Gramma, did you know that when you left I wouldn’t be there to say goodbye? That I’d be in the city you once escaped to to craft your own destiny, crafting my own. That my last words to you would be carried by waves through wires and clouds instead of through the mere zillions of atoms between your ears and my mouth had I sat beside you then. That you would not be able to reply, the cancer having stolen your voice. Did you know that I knew? But how could I say it, goodbye?
Did you know that the first thing I did when Momma told me was place my hands firmly on the ground and throw my feet up above my hips and try to do a handstand? I read once that God feels the Earth through our fingertips. Now, when I put my hands in the soil I think of you. I want you to feel life through my fingers, Gramma. I want you to touch the Earth and soak up the sun through my skin.
Did you hear me as I screamed? Driving back home for your send off, my voice bouncing off the walls of my car and back into my throat, I screamed and balled and broke. The promises I made you then I will keep. I will live for you, Gramma. I will write and I will travel and I will make art. I will let no one cage me nor tether me down. I will not settle. And I will love so fiercely and so freely that those with hate and fear in their hearts will shrink and crumble at my touch.
But—I will not forsake myself.
Did it fulfill you to love so thanklessly? Did you sacrifice out of love, or out of duty? Did you know that it wouldn’t be until you were yellowed and frozen and lifeless that all the people you worked so hard to nurture would finally show gratitude for your unconditional devotion? We took you for granted, and we stifled you, worked you like a horse to be left for dead. Especially him. He may not have killed you, but he certainly kept you from living.
I will never be as selfless as you. I can’t forgive him, and I can’t forgive us. And I will not do it. I will not step into your shoes and continue the death march. I may be “next,” but I refuse the position. I don’t know what you’d think about that, but I can’t worry about that now. I can only live how I want to live, which is now synonymous with how I think you deserved to live. On your deathbed you told me, “I never made my art.” Those words will never graze my lips.
Happy Mother’s Day, Gramma. You who taught me the joy of having dirt in my fingernails and watching flowers grow, who gave me crayons and paper and told me to let my imagination soar, who forced me to go to museums and exhibits that I still have not forgotten; you who split every piece of gum in half to teach me the value of saving, who scratched my back at night because you could not sing a lullaby, who made me a calendar so I could count the days until my parents’ return; you who told me a million times to put on sunscreen, who paid for voice lessons and guitar lessons and came to every show, who never told me I could not do. You who held me close as I cried into your shoulder and told me that your parents had gotten divorced too, and that you were OK. I would be OK, you said, everything would be OK.
You—you are the true mother of my spirit, my heart, my life. You—you from whence I came and from whence I shall grow. I am an extension of you, like a bird’s song transposed for a symphony. You—you have my eternal gratitude, reverence, and love.
I am not OK yet, Gramma. I am even less OK now that you’re gone. But please know that because of you, I am trying.
Yours, as I always have been and always will be,