A former City Council member in Takoma Park whose husband died around the same time my parents died gave me a huge hug when I told her about my loss, and then after talking to me for a few minutes, she gave me an important piece of advice: We all grieve differently, so no matter what you feel, it’s OK (within certain limits, of course).
Well, I’ve been at a loss to put into words how I’ve felt the last month or so, since Grandma went into the hospice and I had no choice but to process and accept her fate. Then I got a card from my friend Corinne today, and on the front, it says, “In the midst of my darkness, I found the sun within myself.” It’s succinct and exact; it’s how I feel.
To be honest, I’ve let myself be absorbed with work this last week and haven’t thought too much about it. Heck, working 10- to 12-hour days while juggling a home life, I haven’t been able to think about anything. But Sunday night, as I was going through some photos to find one of my partner and me for my desk at work, I unexpectedly happened upon a photo of me and Grandma from her 80th birthday in 2004. God, she looked so healthy, though I know in reality she was missing my mom so much that it caused her physical pain, and that the cancer was already there, most of its damage having already been done.
Seeing the picture unexpectedly, I feel like everything about me at that moment — even my heartbeat — stopped dead in its tracks. Not that much time had passed since I sat next to Grandma’s bed in the hospice, showing her photos in a large, glossy magazine and talking about her early memories of moving to Atlanta with my grandfather. She was beyond frail at that point, unable to move half her body, and now here she is in front of me, reduced to 4″ x 6″ but so full of life, holding her head with pride on her 80th birthday, surrounded by her daughters and grandchildren. It was a shock to see it.
But then, thinking I was about to start crying, I found a smile on my face, because out of my darkness had come the sun. Even though I had held her hand at the end of her life, it doesn’t eclipse anything. In fact, it seems fitting that I would be there, because she was there when I came into the world. I have a couple photographs of her, styled to the nines in her late-60s cat-eye glasses, holding me as an infant. She had the same pride in her grandson written across her face then as she had when I kissed her on the forehead and told her I loved her for the last time.
My grief for Pat Bowers really isn’t grief, I think, at least not in the traditional sense. While I miss her dearly, a part of her lives on inside me: her compassion, her optimism, her belief in herself. Maybe the sun within myself is, in fact, her.
I miss you, Grandma. And I love you. But I know you’re going to shine forever.