I knew this day would come. There was no shocking call or an abrupt, knee jerk reaction needed. Not even sudden news out of nowhere. I saw my grandmother take her last breath. She had been battling dementia for a while and it got the best of her. I remember hearing my aunt say that it is literally "cancer of the brain". I know she read that somewhere and I'm sure the doctors can clarify its exact cause but its really hard to watch someone you love suffer; however, I'm glad I was present.
I've never really dealt with death well until now and I think it's because I was blessed with time to prepare for it. A lot of time. Like several months. I was always fearful of the thought of someone close to me dying. I didn't know how I was supposed to feel about it. How I would handle it. Caskets, cemeteries, funerals. All of it scared the living daylights out of me. But when you have to come to terms with these things because someone you love dearly is nearing their final days, it changes you. So many thoughts circled around my mind and I just knew I would lose my mind when the time came. But oddly enough, I was at peace. Something in my mental triggered a sense of calmness. I told myself, "I'm ok because she's going to be ok". It somehow clicked and it all made sense.
I took some time to really think about it. I reminded myself that we will not be on this earth forever. That's a fact. A hard truth. We came into this world guaranteed to do two things: live and die. What we do in between those two moments is up to us to make our lives the best life we can possibly live. After my grandmothers death, so many things came into perspective for me. I pondered a few things: Am I truly living out my god given purpose? Do I take my gifts for granted? Will I continue to make her proud? I read something that said: When an elder family member becomes an ancestor, it's up to us to carry that torch. I felt it. Led. Called. Equipped. To be quite honest, I even felt an innate sense of motherhood since she transitioned. One of the most devastating things I had to come to terms with was that my grandmother was my last living grandparent and won't be able to meet my future daughter. No I'm not pregnant and I don't know if I'm even having kids but it does cross my mind daily. Even when I think about it and wish things happened differently, I don't get sad or upset. Every time I try to think of being sad about her being gone I instantly feel her presence.
I remember trying to force myself to cry or make myself angry about her death. The only thing that came and keeps coming to me is peace and calmness. That energy surrounds me the most. The moments we shared always feel close to me and are recurring thoughts in my mind. Yes, some days I'm sad and I hug that leopard pillow she left behind super tight. Other days, I smile knowing that she lived life to the best of her ability and transitioned peacefully. As much as I thought I would lose my mind, the only thing that I really struggled with was walking into the church on the day of her funeral. It is an unforgettable feeling. As I grabbed my youngest nephews hand and looked back at my sister and my oldest nephew to make sure they were ok, it felt like the longest moment in my life. I literally held my breath and it felt like the time stopped. Tears welled up in my eyes and I choked up. At that moment, a close family friend (Thank you, Sonia), reached out to touch my arm as if to reassure me that I'd be ok. I took a deep breath and we continued to walk forward to say our last goodbye. I stood in front of my grandmother and smiled at her under my mask. I asked my nephew if he wanted to "blow grandma a kiss". To be completely honest, I think it was his strength really helped me get through that moment. To this day I don't know how my nephews were so calm and ok with being at the funeral at their ages (7 and 15) and that's when it hit me. The familial ties that run through me are forever. The love is forever. The history is forever. Her legacy will live on forever. One day, one of my grandchildren will know my strength as I am laid to rest.
This is how I am grieving. By basking in moments of peace, love, calmness, and fond memories. My best friend said to me that she could tell that my grandmother was loved in so many different ways. I loved hearing how everyone spoke so highly of her. She wasn't perfect but she was herself. She was Hazel. She could only be who she was destined to be. She was giving to so many and touched so many lives. From the neighborhood to the classroom to the family and close friends. She's now my hero. My angel. My guide. And in those moments when I feel like there is nothing more I can do to carry on, I'll remember her fight until the end. She didn't give up; she let go when it was time to rest.
Happy Heavenly Birthday Hazel Elizabeth Mashack Wilson!