What I Wish I Could Tell Her

Dear Grandma,

I still miss you.

Sometimes I imagine you still live in your apartment on Magnolia, sitting at the dining table with a guest visiting, fingering a clump of fabric as you listened and spoke, just one clump of many that were layered into dozens of plastic boxes stacked in the closet by the bedroom door. Even though you hadn't quilted in so long before you died, those clear boxes with their many textured scraps and prints are always nearby in my memories of you. I love that quilting was an important part of who you were.

I don't know if I ever told you, Grandma, how much I regret the way I responded on the night that Grandpa died. With all of us crowded into that tiny apartment you shared with him, I went coward and mustered a reason to leave. "Grandpa wouldn't want us to sit here mourning and crying," I said. "He's in heaven with Jesus now." And then I went to party at a friend's house, snaking through the crowds of people in that house and wondering that whole time how I could have left everyone, and even my grief, so easily.

I always wished I could have apologized to him, and could have grieved properly when he died. I didn't know how, Grandma. For so many years afterward, I used to pray little prayers to him in heaven, asking him if he understood, telling him how much I wished I could redo that moment and all the days after his death, wishing he could come back so that I could begin to memorize the stories he was famous for, the ones everyone alludes to but I do not remember. I imagined that he'd look down from heaven, with all the knowledge Jesus gave him once he died, and would forgive me and love me in that place, understanding even more than I could understand about myself back then.

Now I picture you up there with him, both of you so happy to be together again after all those years. You were so sad toward the end, just missing him every day more and more. I wanted to understand that kind of love, and now I'm glad I do. It makes me smile to imagine the two of you looking down upon the large family of us left here, watching us go about our daily lives, smiling when we offer our thoughts and prayers up to you still, wondering if you can even hear us voice them.

Even though I know you're happy to be with Jesus and Grandpa in heaven now, and that you're free from pain, I still wish you were here, Grandma. I wish you were still that constant presence back at home, always welcoming us with so much gladness and a kind heart whenever we would come to see you. I wish for one more day I could sit and play cards with you, and listen to the stories of your life. I wish I could tell you about Kirk and how much I have learned in my life with him. I wish I could tell you about how it feels when I write a story, and about the kind of stories I want to tell, and how I'm doing something new with my life that feels more true than anything else I've spent time doing before. I wish you could have known more of me while you were here, Grandma.

I have some news to share with you, Grandma, that is special for me to tell you, especially, about. This month, I learned that a place called Hospice of the Comforter was looking for volunteers to record the life reflections and stories of their hospice patients. This caught my attention because of how important people's stories have become to me. I see so much dignity to be had in a person who wants to look at their life and fold it into some kind of meaningful understanding of their life's offering on this earth. And I also know that since God has gifted me with an ability to write stories well, perhaps this is one way I can bring glory to Him in the service of others with some of my time right now.

When I told Mom about this opportunity a couple weeks ago, she said it reminded her of what I had always hoped to do for you -- to write down yours and Grandpa's stories so that all of us could have your memories preserved as a legacy handed down, to remember where we came from and the people that you were. It surprised me when Mom said this, since I hadn't made that connection when signing up.

But then, when I received the volunteer application materials in the mail a few days later, I really made the connection. Grandma, I can't tell you how overcome I was with sadness at your passing as I read the materials Hospice of the Comforter had sent. It made me remember that you had hospice care when you were dying. Somehow my volunteering for Hospice of the Comforter suddenly made me feel closer to you, even though my first signing up to work with them hadn't been about that at all.

But even more than that, I was filled with so much memory about my intention to be the one in our family to record your memories. I never did that. I know you know this, but it helps to admit it out loud to you. That is another thing that I really regret in my life: never having gathered your story while you were here. I remember getting started on it the summer after I graduated high school, when I came to visit you in Minnesota. It was the first trip I'd ever taken by myself, and I began to ask you questions about your life growing up and when you first met Grandpa. It was all with the intention to start writing it down, but then I never did. Years later, we all kept saying it should be done, and I always intended for the person to do it to be me, but still I let other things get in the way. I got busy and didn't make it a priority. And now the opportunity has passed forever, except for what we might piece together from our own memories. Still, it could never be the same. I am so sorry for failing you in this, Grandma. I hope you can forgive me.

Sitting there, reading those hospice materials last week, I was really struck with grief that you are gone. And last night, during my first full night of orientation and training, you were never far from my mind. There are so many ways we do not make as much of the days as we should, and I really feel that is the case in my loss of you in my life.

I wish that you were here. I trust that you are well. I love you.