On Being Left Behind

Two days ago, my grandma passed away.

August 23rd was officially the day she left this earth, but the truth is that she left this world a long time ago.

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease. She’d had it for years and it would be wishful thinking for me to pretend that she’d still been my grandmother all of those years spent in the nursing home.

She wasn’t the grandma that I grew up with — the one who stroked my head when I had a headache, or the one who made me grilled cheese and tomato soup when I had a bad day at school. She wasn’t the grandma who had loved me unconditionally even when I was a teen and didn’t know how to love myself, and she wasn’t the grandma who read my journal entries where I pretended to be a mermaid and told me that I was the best writer she had ever known.

That grandma left a long time ago, and what remained was simply a body.

I knew that one day my grandmother would die. We all grow up knowing that our loved ones are getting older and that one day they are going to leave us. But knowing something might happen and having it actually happen are two very different things.

In many ways I felt as if I had already grieved for her. But when I found out that she had passed away, my world stopped.

Death is such a weird thing.

It comes when you least expect it and forces you to put your life on hold. It interrupts the day to day repetitiveness and reminds you that you are not in control. You never have been. You never will be. And it’s terrifying.

When a loved one dies, it feels as if the world has stopped. It’s as if for a moment time stands still.

But time hasn’t stopped. It never stops. It only stops for you.

I’m not sad that my grandma died. She is finally free.

I’m sad that death happens every single day and we never come closer to understanding it or accepting it.

I’m sad for everyone who has ever lost someone, no matter the age or the circumstance.

I’m sad that I wasn’t there to hug my grandma one last time.

I’m sad that my mom now has no mom to hug.

I’m sad that my grandpa now has to face the world alone, without his partner.

I’m sad because my grandma had her life stolen by Alzheimer’s.

I’m sad because she is not alone, and this happens to millions of people and families every year.

I’m sad because I don’t know how to be anything else right now.

And I’m sad because I’m scared.

I’m scared of losing people I love in the blink of an eye. I’m scared of not living my life to the fullest. I’m scared of not making my grandma proud. I’m scared of how final death is. And I’m scared of feeling this hurt over and over and over again throughout the course of my life.

Today I am sad. Tomorrow, I probably will be too. But eventually, I don’t want to be sad anymore. I don’t want to be scared. I want to reflect on the time spent with my grandma and smile. I want to face each day feeling unafraid, not terrified. And I want death to know, that if and when it finally chooses to come for me, that I’ll have no regrets.

For now, I like to imagine my grandma somewhere up in the clouds, finally reunited with her brothers and sisters, free of Alzheimer’s and able to enjoy it all.

They say it’s not the ones who die that experience pain. It’s the ones they leave behind. And at some point in this life, we’re all left behind.

Every time someone we love dies, a little part of us dies with them.

But like the great Charles Bukowski once said, you have to die a few times before you can really live.

And for you grandma, I’m going to live.







3 responses to “On Being Left Behind

  1. You brought me to tears Lara. So beautifully written and so true. I will see you Friday. Safe travels and love and prayers to you all.

  2. Beautifully said. Your grandmother loves it I am sure of that. I knew her my entire life. One very special lady (and family). Peace and safe travels to you.

  3. This is the most accurate descriptions of losing a loved one I’ve ever read. You articulated every detail perfectly. You made me remember what it was like, but it was good to remember. Thank you for sharing your experience. Wonderful words. Safe travels and best wishes to you and your family. x

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