I think we’ve all had at least one person in our life who was just always there. For as long as we can remember, there was a person who seemed to be around you no matter what: birthdays, holidays, vacations, random afternoons. They were always a presence and life just seems complete with them there.
Mine was my great-grandmother. I can’t think of an occasion where she wasn’t a presence in my life. She was there from the moment I was born, on every holiday she was there to provide the family prayer before dinner, and on weekends she would always drop by my house to say hello.
I would never have imagined in a million years that Thanksgiving would be the last time I would see her.
I didn’t think I would lose someone I was close to until last year. I always knew it was a fact of life, but I never thought it would happen to me so soon. I sat at her funeral crying on my boyfriend’s shoulder over a month ago and since then I’ve realized a few things that happen when you lose someone you thought would always be in your life.
You miss the little things.
Whenever I asked her how she was doing she would respond with, “I’m going well for a young old lady.” She was wildly funny and would make jokes about everything. I think fondly of the days I spent at her house as a child with my siblings when we played board games and played with the endless little toys she had as keepsakes.
You smile at things that make you remember them.
Things like her beautiful singing voice, her surprisingly hot temper, her crisp red nails, and the way she was content to see anything artistic I would do put smiles on my face at random times throughout the day.
You cry at things that make you remember them.
It really hit me that she was gone during Christmas dinner. Whenever we had dinners at my house she was always sitting at the table to my right. It felt like something was wrong that day. I kept waiting for her to come through the door. Of course, she never did.
You remember what they taught you.
My great grandmother taught me a lot of things over the years. She was one of the people who instilled in me my love for music. Whenever I sit in my car, I think the summer she spent teaching me how to drive when I was 18 and how happy she was when I got my license that August. She taught me to love myself, that it was okay to be sensitive, and many more things that I will always keep with me.
You hope that they’re in a better place.
She’d always had a lot of health problems, from diabetes to arthritis. She suffered from cancer for a long time before it finally took her away. I like to imagine that wherever she is, she’s feeling better, she’s able to move without pain, and she’s singing her heart out again like she always did before she got sick.
You have regrets.
I regret not calling her more. I regret not having one more conversation with her on that Thanksgiving before she left us. I regret not spending more time with her as a child. I regret not listening to her tell me another story that I’ve already heard a million times. I regret not sitting down on the couch with her one last time and telling her about what I’ve been doing lately.
You tell yourself that you have no reason to regret.
As I have these regrets, I have to remind myself that there is no reason to. I did all that I could. I spent as much time with her as I was meant to. Most people don’t have the privilege of having their great grandmother around for 21 years of their life. I’m lucky that I had the time with her that I did.
You wish they could be there for your future.
I wish she could be here to see what happens to me next. She wanted to see me graduate college. She was excited that I’m a fitness instructor and I’m sure she’d want to see where I’ll go with it. She loved my boyfriend and I wish she would be here to see us get married. She would say we should have 12 kids and while that’s definitely not happening, I wish she could be here to see at least one of them.
You miss your special conversations.
Whenever we got together we always spent time talking, just the two of us, even if for only a few minutes. We told each other our fears and doubts or what was going on in the family at the time and how we felt about it. No matter what always made it a point to tell me that I was her first great grandchild and that made me her number one. “You’re very special to me,” she would say. “I love you so much.”