My Grandma Gene passed away on June 15, 2019. She was quite simply one of the most amazing humans I’ve ever met, and I got to call her Grandma.
Losing her was difficult, and I haven’t been to the cemetery since the funeral. I’m not proud of that, but I own it. COVID was an issue last year, but honestly, I shouldn’t hide behind that because the truth is, I wasn’t ready to visit her at the cemetery.
During her last few months, I spent every single day with her at the nursing home. She would call me in the middle of the night. She didn’t know where she was and wanted me to find her because she was scared. I can’t tell you how many trips I made out there at 2 am. I would sit with her, hold her hand, and remind her where she was.
This is hard to write.
I would pick the kids up from school and take them to see her. We would all have ice cream together, and she would ask them all about school. She was a retired teacher and thoroughly invested in the boy’s education.
I was lucky enough to have some incredible conversations with her during our daily visits. She would tell me all kinds of stories about when she was younger. We talked about my Dad, what he was like growing up, and she wanted to make sure that those memories were passed on.
In her final days, I was glued to her bedside. It was so important to me that I be there for her. There was family constantly streaming in and out, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave.
Very early in the morning, on June 15th, 2019, my Dad convinced me to go home and get some sleep. I hadn’t slept in a few days, and I was a mess. I resisted but ultimately went home and crashed. My head no sooner hit the pillow when my now ex-wife woke me up to tell me she had passed.
I was heartbroken, and I felt so guilty that I wasn’t there for her. I don’t remember much of that day beyond knowing that she passed right after I left.
I remember my Dad sitting me down at one point and telling me that he thinks she was holding on. She didn’t want me there when she passed because she knew how hard that would have been for me. As soon as I left, she was able to peacefully pass and be reunited with my grandpa, who’d passed 35 years previous.
I don’t know why I shared all that just now, other than I needed to get that out.
June 5th is her birthday, and she would be 96 years old now. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about her. Driving to Giant Eagle brings back so many memories because it’s on the way to the nursing home. I still have her room number in my contacts and one of her dinner menus that had her wifi password on the back of it. I can’t bring myself to get rid of either. If I called her room, she obviously wouldn’t be there, but I don’t want to delete it.
The boys and I are going to visit her in the morning. They’ve never been comfortable visiting the cemetery, and I’ve never pushed. I wasn’t ready to either, and that’s okay. This will be the first time they’ve been to the cemetery, and I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to go.
They want to go, and so we’re going.
We’re going to plant some flowers and spend some time with her.
It’s about an 80-minute drive, so we’re going to leave relatively early. We’ll probably be home by early afternoon. I have somewhere important to be at 5 pm, and I’m looking forward to it.
So, I will visit my grandma tomorrow, and I’m not going to lie, it won’t be easy. That said, this is important to me, so I’m going to push through it and embrace whatever emotions come flooding in.
Happy Birthday Grandma. I love you so much and I miss you terribly.
A very touching and beautiful story Rob. I lost my grandmother many, many years ago when I was a child. She helped raise me and lived with us. When my dad died, she went to work to help support us. I think of her always as I do my late parents and I’m now 71. I understand your feelings. Keep all those good memories of your grandmother. That’s her legacy to you.
As long as you remember her, you will carry her in your heart.