The Mighty Logo

What Losing My Grandma Taught Me About Myself

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

“So this is how a normal death looks and feels,” I said to myself as I opened the doors of the funeral home across the street. I hadn’t been there since my dad had passed almost 14 years prior.

It’s funny how our mind works; everything that happened when my dad died is a blur, maybe even a horrid fantasy. No father is supposed to die when one is a teenager, so all of a sudden, out of nowhere. When my grandma died eight months ago I got to experience a “normal” death for the first time in my life… and I got to feel and go through all of these new emotions and sensations.

My grandma would have turned 98 this past March and she was very well-known in our community. She escaped her country during the second world war and never went back. She would always say that it would hurt too much to go back home. I remember thinking that it was stupid, but now I finally understood.

I was always the kind of girl who would take pictures and record videos “just in case.” I think that when I went to Europe and saw the house where she was born and walked down the same roads she had walked down so many years ago, I understood. I think it was on that day that everything started.

This weird and inexplicable connection with my grandma, as if we had been one and the same in a different dimension. I discovered that we were very much alike when I started to go through her stuff when she passed.

I don’t think there’s memory without my grandma in it. She has been there for me since minute one and, of course, there are some things I will regret not having told her, or wish we had spent more time together. She was such a pure soul, so sensitive, so caring, so lovely.

When she left my house after having broken her hip I felt as if a part of me had gone missing. I immediately went into mother mode and cleaned her house, bought flowers, rearranged her books, prepared everything for when she would come back. But she never did. She made the hospice home her new home and my flowers and the rearranged books were left unseen, forgotten.

We visited every weekend. We brought family photos, we got drunk, we ate cake, we drank tea, we discussed politics, we got emotional, we walked around the garden… and I always made sure there were enough videos and photos of her and us together.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Daily Inspirations group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Get a regular dose of creativity when you join Daily Inspirations. Browse through quotes, song lyrics, art, and more — or share what inspires you. Click to join.

Something started to happen though. Our spiritual connection had become stronger, though neither of us was aware of it. A friend of mine told me that I was what everyone calls an empath. I was so connected to my grandma that whenever she was sick, I was sick too. I had mood swings and she had them too, if my knee hurt, hers did too. If I had a headache, she had it too. I remember talking to her about this, and we were both startled by it. How was it that this was happening?

She started to appear in my dreams more often than usual. I started to open up a bit more, to enjoy life more fully, to laugh more, to do stupid things just to make her laugh. Whenever I had surgery I felt protected because I felt her prayers. She prayed every night for me, for my well-being because she knew I was suffering. We were one and the same.

When she became sick the last time and was left in intensive care and in a coma, strange things started to happen. I had intense migraines that came out of nowhere, I was tired all the time, I just wanted to sleep. That very same day we found out that my grandma had a subdural hematoma and a heavy hemorrhage. She needed surgery and I was so calm and in peace as if I knew everything was going to work out just fine. And it did. Her surgery went well, but she never woke up. The longest week of my life was ahead of me and my mind was as calm and as happy as it had ever been.

There were little signs everywhere. I found photos of her teenage years, her cousin sent a letter with a handwritten prayer that my grandma’s dad had written for the sick, the doctor’s name was Joseph (that was my grandad’s name), the surgeon’s last name was the name that my dad’s enterprise had. We knew they were there for us; we knew it was a matter of time, she was finally going to reunite with them.

The doctor told us to talk to her, to play songs to her, to hold her hand, to kiss her. Maybe she would wake up from her coma, but she never did. She looked peaceful, tranquil, happy. She didn’t suffer, never, she simply drifted off to sleep, forever.

My body went through a very rare something. When I got the news that she had passed, I felt happy because she was happy like she always had been. Now, on the other side, she would finally find out that our souls had been connected in this special way, our special bond because she was like me and I was like her.

I spent countless minutes next to her coffin. I was 31 and it was my first time seeing a lifeless person. I admired every single detail of her face, her quirky smile, her porcelain skin, the painted nails, the rosary with beads in shapes of roses, the candle that I had bought in Europe so many years before, the holy water brought from France, the rosemary branch from my own garden, the Jesus figure from my bedroom. There was a little piece of everyone in that tiny room. No one understood why I was smiling, why I was singing during mass with all this love and devotion. I turned the grief in a celebration of her life because deep down I knew that it’s what she would have wanted.

Knowing I had spent so many years with her and that she would always live inside my heart in this special way helped me grow, become more confident, take risks and give advice she would have given me if she had been alive. She will forever be a part of me. Even though we discovered this connection so late in our lives, we discovered its existence, and that makes my heart smile.

Image via contributor

Originally published: October 13, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home