Three weeks ago, my grandmother died. I haven’t been back to the site after writing my official goodbye, a few days before I got on the plane to go home and lay her to rest. I haven’t written much of anything, actually. I haven’t known what to write…didn’t really know what to say.
I landed in West Virginia with a bit of a numbness mixed with a strange calm. My grandmother and I were incredibly close. I called her regularly just to check in, to see how she was faring. I had spoken to her the week before she passed away. May 1st would have been her 90th birthday. I was going to bake her a cake.
“What kind of cake do you want?” I asked.
“Well, you know I don’t have diabetes anymore,” she said, with a giddy lilt in her voice. “So you don’t have to make me sugar-free cheesecake.” She was referring to the epic, annual event known as Kristi Makes Grandma Sugar-Free Cheesecake for Christmas, which took 8+ hours of mashing, blending, baking, and freezing to create the perfect dessert that absolutely did not look or taste sugar-free.
“Double chocolate cake,” she decided, so I had planned on finding her recipe for homemade chocolate fudge icing and crafting a triple-layer cake for her big day.
I never got the chance to make it. That is the only regret I had when my grandmother passed away.
I’m blessed I’d already said and done all the things I needed to say and do for and with her. I’d spent time with her when I’d come to visit, listening to her stories about Grandpa and concerns about remaining independent until she could pass away. We left no stone unturned, no words left unsaid. She knew I loved her, I was certain of her love for me.
I helped my mother with the Mass arrangements, and when it came time to figure out who would deliver the eulogy, I said I’d do it. I don’t really know why I said I would. Maybe being “the writer in the family,” I thought I might be able to cobble something together. As the time came to write it, nerves set in: I was about to write and say the last thing that would ever be publicly said about my grandmother. I sat in silence the morning of the funeral, asking that Heaven pour through my hands. Evidently, it did. I stood in front of my entire family over her casket and delivered the most powerful thing I have ever written. I just said what she would have wanted me to say.
That moment changed my life. Well, it was one of two such moments in those two weeks.
Two weeks at home passed in a blur of remote work and appointments to settle her estate. My mother and I had long talks during those two weeks. We spoke about how to settle the estate. We went through the checklist of the things that would need to be done if something happened to either of us. Mom thought more about what she’d want when it was her time, both of us mused on what we’d want our own lives to mean moving forward.
The night before I returned to New York found us at my grandmother’s house, gathering legal documents and financial paperwork crucial to the settlement of the estate. After hours passed in piles of paperwork, old photos, and just a touch short of a century of memories, we decided to take a break. I, sitting cross-legged on my grandmother’s kitchen floor; Mom sitting in my grandmother’s chair at the head of the kitchen table.
“This has to mean something, Mom,” I said.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean, I feel like if I have to leave you here in all of this and return to New York, it should mean something.”
We thought about the hard times on which I’d fallen over the past few months. I didn’t get paid for four months. Two clients collapsed. I was grappling with health issues. Despite the best of intentions, I was at a place of real discontent. What did it all mean?
“I feel like if I get on that plane tomorrow that it has to mean something, that all of this is FOR something.”
Mom sat quietly and sighed. “Do you know what I found in her nightstand drawer?”
I shook my head.
She produced a stack of paper, held together with an old, well-worn rubber band, placing the papers in front of me.
“She kept it all, Kristi,” Mom said. “Everything you ever wrote about her, everything you ever wrote for her. It’s all there.”
And so it was. Further investigation would reveal short stories from childhood, handmade cards, creative writing exercises, my old email distribution called The Thursday Slide Poem, and older posts about my grandmother that have appeared on this site.
We sat in silence for a while, the mute air that passed between parent and child that’s meant to hang thick while the child struggles to comprehend, to come to their own conclusion. After a few tearful moments, I knew what I had to do, and my mother vocalized it so it would crystalize in my mind.
“Your grandmother would want you to go back up there and finish what you started.”
I knew she was right.
Before I left our home, I put on this ring. It belongs to my mother; a gift I gave her for Mother’s Day almost fifteen years ago. It now signifies for me that I am a trio of of strong women who made their way in this world. My grandmother left her mark, my mother made hers. Now, it’s my turn.
I can’t apologize for taking the time to figure out that my writing and creative spirit was what I’ve wanted all this time. I believe you know things when you know them. But I also all of these experiences have been leading to this, the minute I realized who I want to be, and what I am supposed to do in this world.
And so I do. And here we are.
I know what it means…and it most definitely means something.
Let’s get started, shall we?