There she was, beaming her everlasting smile, as we put the finishing touches on the photo montage for Asher’s bar mitzvah next week: Gigi. Grandma Sheila. My lovely grandmother.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the tradition of a montage slide show typically shown at a bar mitzvah party, it’s a compilation of photos and music representing the boy or girl of honor’s life thus far.
And all the people special to them over the years. Cousins, parents, siblings, friends. Grandparents.
We’re lucky that we have such a big and loving family. And we’re together a lot, snapping pics, so we have lots to throw into this little film.
And one of the most important people in my children’s lives until a year and a half ago was my grandmother, their great-grandmother, also known as Gigi.
I’ve memorialized her here on the blog before, especially in the immediate days following her passing. Asher spoke at her funeral. I did, too. I reveled in the brilliance of having a grandmother for 42 years of my life. A remarkable connection indeed.
Tonight, as Dan whipped through the photos to show me his sequencing, there she was, in so many pictures. But one in particular grabbed me, she and Asher, as close together as two people can physically get, he leaning in to her warm embrace, both of them smiling and radiant.
I couldn’t help it. Tears rimmed my eyes. “I can’t believe she’s gone,” I said to Dan.
And I thought about those words.
She’s gone. Where, exactly, did she go? Vanished off the face of the word except for in our hearts and in our memories.
What a final and harsh word.
When it’s imminent, we worry and anticipate, fret and plan. Wonder what it will be like when that moment comes, and when our beloved has left this life.
Then it happens. It’s sudden but expected. We cry. We pull close to one another. We walk through the daze of memorializing the person as a community and as individuals.
Gigi breathed her last breath around 4 a.m. on a Wednesday, and about four hours later, I took myself to yoga class. “I can’t believe you’re here,” my friend Katherine, the yoga teacher, said. I simply nodded. Where else would I be? Sitting at home moping? Wouldn’t it be better to process the grief by moving the energy up and out?
She asked me if she could take the class through a meditation for a departed soul at the end. She wouldn’t name me. I nodded my approval. We went through class and she began the meditation and I just sat on my mat and let the tears streak my face in silence.
Gone. She’s been gone for a year and a half.
And as I reflected on the way this happens – a life begins, a life flourishes, a life slows, a life ends – it was suddenly remarkable to me. She is no longer with us.
Just like that. In the blink of an eye, the snap of a finger, a person is here one moment and not the next.
Doesn’t that amaze you? Isn’t it unbelievable?
Except it happens all the time.
Even though it’s been a year and a half since my grandmother left this life, I miss her as if it just happened.
Some days, I don’t think about her at all. And then I see a photo or I remember a time we spent together (there were so many) and I well up as if it’s a new hurt.
The hole in my heart remains open, air flowing through it as if it’ll never close. And yet, I know it will. Each day, it heals a little.
And then I see a picture of Gigi hugging my Ashi, or any of us, and it tears anew.
To love someone so much that you ache once they’re gone is truly a gift. A hard one to bear, but so worth it.