Some Things You’ll Never Forget

*This has been sitting on my laptop for a while, because to be honest it was hard to write. And I know time has passed, but here it is. Just some final words I had to say because sometimes grieving isn’t all at once.

By the time you turn 25 there are some things you’ll never forget.

You’ll hold onto the memory of stargazing on your roof when you were 14, only days away from moving to a completely new city. You’ll remember the feeling of your first real heartbreak as you cry into your mother’s lap. You’ll remember the exhilarating thrill of free-falling from a plane, of dancing in a bar in a small town on the other side of the world.

And sometimes, by the time you turn 25, you’ll remember the strong smell of hand sanitizer, the texture of the surgical mask against your nose as you try so hard to fight back the tears and gasps.

You’ll have the red numbers 13:09 engrained in your brain.

By the age of 25, sometimes you’ll forever remember the scene of your entire family standing in a hospital room with glassy eyes, choking back tears, surrounding your grandmother—your Lola—as she takes her final breaths.


To be honest, I always thought death came with some giant fanfare, the final hurrah: the erratic machine beeps, opening her eyes one more time, some words of wisdom she could impart on us before she left.

But death never really happens how you expect it. Sometimes, there is no final “I love you.” There is no dramatic echo of a flatline blaring through the room as the movies have you believe (the nurse turned off the screen that showed Lola’s heart rate).

Sometimes, there is only silence, mixed with sniffles and whispers of “I love you, you’re going home,” until the only sound is the footsteps of the nurse as she pulls the curtain back to tell you, “She’s passed.”

Sometimes there is only that surreal daze left—no, that didn’t just happen…it couldn’t have—as you exit the hospital room to sit back on the benches outside the ICU staring at a cloudless blue sky.

Lola and Me

Something happens when you watch someone you love die.

Especially so close to your birthday.

Every year Lola would call me to wish me a happy birthday. She’d ask me how I was doing and every year I could hear the smile in her voice as she’d greet me and pray for me.

This year there was no phone call.

No annual prayer.


Lola always liked to send her grandchildren, including myself, emails. (Once she realized we weren’t always checking our emails, at over 70 years old she learned to text.)

Every few days she would send us an excerpt from utmost.org along with a fitting Bible verse. This year on New Year’s Day she sent one titled “God holds our life in His hands” and attached the song Breathe by Michael W. Smith.

(Sometimes I wonder if she knew. If she had any idea, that that first message this year would prepare us for the difficulty that would be 2018.)

New Years 2018
Dec. 31, 2017: The last photo I got with Lola on New Year’s Eve. And this isn’t even all of Lola’s grandkids/my cousins.

She was our rock in times of need and our guiding light.

She would pray with me and for me when I was house sitting when my parents went on vacation, the summer I lost my job, and every time I got on a flight because she knew I was terrified of planes.


And that’s the thing with death. Sometimes it’s not a dramatic ending. Sometimes it’s just the slow fading of a comforting, familiar light.


Most of the time it takes a while to be okay.

Some days you’ll catch yourself crying in the middle of your room as the feelings of grief hit you once again.

Other times you’ll find yourself smiling and telling yourself it’s okay because when you meet a woman who has the convictions and faith of my grandmother, you hold onto hope that you know exactly where she is.

But most days, you remind yourself of exactly what Lola would say.

IMG_3537

By the time you turn 25 there are some things you’ll never forget.

The sound of how Lola would pronounce your name. The way her eyes lit up when she published her book. The gentle smile when you knew she was proud: of her grandchildren, of our accomplishments.

How no matter what we each struggled with, Lola was there.

And how she would tell you, so surely, the same words over and over and over again:

“Do not worry. Be still. God is good.”

 

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