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Grandma,

When we drove through the gates of the cemetery yesterday, little Mack said, “we’re going here? Oh yeah! We come here every time we come to Nana’s house!”

I smiled and sighed. He was right, after all. We were at the cemetery two short weeks ago for his Uncle Dana’s birthday.

We bought a ton of flowers and brought them to Dana’s grave, only to find flowers already there from his younger son.

Grandma, all of Dana’s kids drove the 6+ hours south to be at his gravesite for what would have been his 45th birthday. I hope you and Dana and Grandpa Jack were embracing them in love as they knelt at your graves, Dana right above you and Grandpa.

I don’t know, you know. I thought a part of my heart was breaking in remembering how it was last year – do you remember, Grandma? You were with me as Dana, always so happy and joyful on his birthday, gave us all red roses.

Remember how he loved giving us flowers on his birthday? And I remember trying to tease him about his age and having it fall flat since he was completely ecstatic to be one year older. He was SO HAPPY.

Dana was nothing if not a joyful person who just relished his life, soaked up every bit of it and asked for seconds, thirds.

I miss him so much, Grandma.

We covered his grave and yours and Grandpa Jacks – all three of you who left us last year – in flowers. And tears.

Mom’s courage is contagious. I look at her and I think, ‘she lost her only son and both parents. She’s moving forward, step by step.’ I take a deep breath. I know you are so proud of her.

Yesterday we were back at the cemetery.

It was the one year anniversary of your passing.

Grandma, you were such an incredibly special lady.

You know how I went through the windshield of a car when I was 4 years old. It left me with scars all over my face from my torn forehead, lip and eyebrow. I went from this cute freckle-faced strawberry-blonde little girl to this a little girl with blood red scars all over my face and shorn hair.

I have written about this before, in the first post I ever wrote on this blog about my brother Dana. How the world would see my face and look away, embarrassed, horrified, and yet with my brother nothing changed. He demanded that I play with him, as I always had, as I always would, until he died last September.

You were the other person that didn’t blip with my scars or with the change in my appearance.

To you, I was always a perfect little girl. I don’t know how you did it. I mean, I was very sensitive then to how people would shift in their treatment of me once they saw my face, and I could pick up on that shift like there was no tomorrow. From you, there was never a shift, never a blip. I was precious to you, perfect. I was gorgeous, smart, and later, you were thrilled that I would choose to “fight for the underdog” and yes, that I “could drive too!”

You are my Grandma and you always loved me.

I loved being with you, I loved your acceptance of me. I loved how I could be myself with you. I would take you to dance with me at Ashkanez in Berkeley. I even brought you with me to bars, remember Albatross, Hotsy Totsy and Mallard?! Oh, we had so much fun, didn’t we, Grandma!

And always, always, you and I went to movies.

First we’d walk when I was little, then you’d drive me. Years later, I would pick you up and drive you!  You’d tell me stories about your visits to those theaters in days gone by, like when we went to the Fox in Oakland to see a classic. You told me stories of your parents, your life, stories about your daughter, my mom. You loved talking and laughing and having a good time. Oh, how I loved your laugh, Grandma!

Remember how we’d sit together in the car after we had watched a movie and dissect it, scene by scene, what was good about it, what we rated the movie. We both loved foreign movies (they came with captions!); independents were best. I often thought that we missed our calling; we should have run a movie review system or something.

Yesterday we went to the cemetery first to visit you and lay flowers on your grave, as well as Dana’s and Grandpa Jack’s.

It was far less sad than going there for Dana’s birthday had been.

Grandma, you had had such a wonderful passing – holding Dana’s hand on one side and my own on the other, mom standing by your feet, your great-grandchildren in the room, surrounded by love.

Ready to go, exactly one month to the day after Grandpa Jack passed on.

I have found it so easy to feel your presence this past year. Easy, I think because you were ready to go and because our love is so strongly in my being – if I simply close my eyes and dance, it’s easy to feel you.

At your grave yesterday, I played “Your The Love” – that song that we’d listen to and seat-dance along with, and cried.

Mom and I were together.

We went on to the movies, to see La La Land, in honor of you.

We didn’t know what it was about!

I just knew it was something about a musical and done in an old-Hollywood vibe. We were completely blown away. I was sobbing, as it reminded me so much of you and Grandpa Jack.

Moxie was swept away with the piano playing and dancing. She sat, enthralled,
eyes wide and glued to the screen.

It made me think of how alike in many ways Moxie is to you, and how you were when I first told you that the child I was pregnant with would be coming with Down syndrome.

Do you remember that, Grandma? You didn’t miss a beat, saying, “oh but she’ll be your baby and you’ll love her.”

Just like you never, ever missed a beat with me.

I am so blessed. I had 43 years with a Grandma who thought the world of me, so much time to be surrounded by your love, affection, stories, joy, pride, humor, laughter, generosity, humility and kindness.

I will always be grateful.

And, feeling you as I do, knowing that you are are my Angel, watching over me with so much love, I am still grateful.

I love you, Grandma.

 

When Mikey took the kids to school this morning, I sat outside and felt the rain spray tiny, cold sprinkles on my face. The sudden complete silence that comes every Tuesday when all the kids are gone for school is deafening, disorienting. It feels like a hurricane has passed.

The silence. The stillness.

The tiny, cold rain sprinkles.

And I felt my tears welling up in my heart, gathering together like the raindrops do in puddles.

I always knew that one day I would walk this road

but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.

meriah nichols grandma-10 My grandparents divorced over 30 years ago.

We did not tell Grandma that Grandpa had passed on, yet immediately after he died on January 26th, Grandma started to go downhill.

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On Friday February 26th – exactly one month to the day after Grandpa Jack died – my brother Dana came in to the hospital room where Grandma was, and sat in the chair next to her.

I was in the chair on her other side. My children and niece were in the room, my mother was standing by Grandma’s feet.

Grandma reached her trembling hand out towards me – I clasped it. She reached out with her other hand, and my brother clasped it. And, holding our hands, with my mother in front of her, she drew her last breaths and passed away from this world.

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I always knew that one day I would walk this road

but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.

meriah nichols grandma-6Oh, the gift of love that she gave to us, knowing that she wanted, needed us to be there in a trinity of love, supporting her in her transition from this world to the next.

We were hers; she was ours.

And, holding us tight, she moved on.

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In accordance with Baha’i burial rites, my mother, my niece Yu Han, a caregiver of Grandma’s and I bathed her body in rosewater after she passed. Then we wrapped her in a shroud of raw silk.

Grandma was so lovely in death – her face was set in a smile.

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Then Mom stayed with Grandma until the mortuary came up from the Bay Area to take Grandma down so that we could bury her next to Grandpa.

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Grandma and Grandpa divorced over 30 years ago, but it was clear to us all that there was far more to their relationship than we knew of. Grandma wouldn’t have died one month to the day after Grandpa if they hadn’t.

And so they are together, side by side.

I always knew that one day I would walk this road

but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.

My friend Ken sent me that quote after Grandma died and it spoke to me. When you grow up, you know that there will come a day when you will need to say goodbye to people you love. It’s a shock when it actually happens though. The day could come at any time, any day could be that day. Which reminds me that we are all spiritual beings having a physical experience.

It seems to me that nothing burns the truth of that phrase into my marrow as do events of great magnitude.

I knew that even as I went through the windshield of that car when I was 4 years old, I knew that when I was at my lowest points in life. I knew that when I walked on the beach with Mikey after we were married. I knew that as I held my children, fresh from my womb. And I knew that as I held my beloved Grandmother’s hand as she passed. I knew that as I felt her spirit throughout the room that held her body.

I know that as her laughter and brightness have filled my dreams since her death.

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I love you, Grandma.

From my heart for yours, only love.

I loved your smile with that dimple peeping through.

meriah nichols grandma-1

People with dimples make everyone smile.

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I loved your eyes, always twinkling with mine in some shared joke or secret.

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I loved the way you talked to me – so honestly, openly, and without a thought for convention. You said what you were thinking and feeling. Always.

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And I loved that you didn’t care a flying fig about convention. You marched firmly to the beat of your own beautiful drummer, and you taught your daughter – and she, me – to do the same. I will always be grateful to you for that, Grandma.

Mom, Grandma, my niece Yu Han, me and Moxie
Mom, Grandma, my niece Yu Han, me and Moxie

I loved that you found the good in me and shone your spotlight on it.

And when you knew about the bad, you didn’t care. You made it okay with your unconditional love.

You taught me so much about unconditional love, Grandma.

I loved that you lit up whenever you see me – and here I’m breaking down, Grandma. Because you have been the only person who always lit up when they saw me, and now you are gone.

Grandpa and the universe have your light now.

I know that each and every time I see a night sky full of bright stars, beautiful flowers and bright rainbows, I will be thinking of you with a heart that is fuller and richer for having known you.

I love you, Grandma. I will always love you.

From my heart for yours, only love.

I want to tell you a little about my Grandma, my Mom’s mom.

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She is little – short and plump with a sparkling, infectious laugh. Curly blonde hair, bright blue eyes and dimples.

She was a dancer, loved music and movies and people – oh my God, Grandma loves people! All people. And fearless about people – she was always so ahead of her time with her regard for all people.

I remember one time we were driving through an underpass in Richmond, California and Grandma’s car broke down. She got out and walked over to where a group of young African-American men wearing pants slung below their underwear, gold and fancy sneakers were hanging around their car (doing things that didn’t look too legal). She walked right over and asked if they could help her, “excuse me, young men! Can you help me, please?”, she said in her high, kind of squeaky voice. A couple of guys jumped up and came over and fiddled with Grandma’s car battery or something and got it zooming in no time. Grandma laughed happily and thanked them and they all beamed right back at her.

Another time, Grandma and I watched a Spanish gay love story (we always choose international movies because they came with subtitles) and sat for hours afterwards in the parking lot, talking about love and gay love and how hard that must if your family, laws and culture wouldn’t support it at all.

I took Grandma to movies every week, or out with me. I took her because I genuinely loved her company. I liked her perspective on things, her brightness, and I liked her open-mindedness. It didn’t hurt that Grandma thought I was the cat’s meow either.

Have you ever had anyone think you were the cat’s meow? I hope everyone gets to experience that somehow, in some way.

It’s the best feeling in the world, knowing that this person’s face will ALWAYS light up for you. Knowing that you can be your worst (not that you’d want to, but we all have our days) and this person will STILL find the good in you and compliment you on it. Knowing that despite what anyone else might say, this person thinks you are the smartest, prettiest, kindest person on this beautiful earth.

My Grandma always thought that about me.

She always finds whatever it is that she loves and can compliment me on – that’s my appearance, my ability to drive, my smarts, my adorable children, my kindness or caring for others.

A while ago, I picked her up for our weekend outing, and she told me my hair looked great, then said, “you are KIND; you have it all, honey.” It about made me cry, because I love her so hard, so much, and I love that she cares about kindness like she does.

Grandma and Grandpa Jack
Grandma and Grandpa Jack

Grandma and Grandpa Jack divorced when I was around 4 or 5 years old, but remained cordially friends. They both remarried; Grandpa Jack got divorced again and thereafter only had lady friends. Grandma’s second husband died some time ago.

I don’t think that Grandma was ever told that Grandpa Jack passed away, but since his passing, she has steadily been going down. In two weeks, she’s gone from being fairly active and participating in her “program” to not being able to walk at all, and finding it hard to breathe.

She is in the hospital now.

The doctors think that her age coupled with the connectedness of all of her physical problems means that her own passing is imminent. Hospice is involved and Grandma is on “comfort care”, which means that the hospital is only concerned with making her passing as comfortable and easy as possible.

And I… well, I can’t pretend that I don’t hope in my heart that they have it all wrong. That she’ll really get better and she’ll come back to my brother’s house and we can watch movies together and say, “thank God! That was a close call, I almost lost you, Grandma!”. And she’d laugh that sparkly, happy laugh of hers and say something like, “oh, well, we couldn’t have that, could we, Meriah?! We always have a good time together, don’t we, dear?”

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