Finding hope after loss.

Finding Serenity After Loss: A Grandaughter's Observation Of Grief And Hope

My grandma was a firm believer in silver linings.

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Let me start this by being completely honest. My grandmother, Janet Barnette, was a real firecracker. She would have been the first to tell you. She would also tell you that she was known to "make a splash, but not ruffle any feathers with frou-frou pleasantries." She was passionate and kind, bold and gentle, fierce and loyal. She knew exactly how to be herself unapologetically without ever threatening someone else's boundaries.

Her strength attracted friendships that lasted 70 years and she could melt someone's icy exterior without even meaning to. She never complained and didn't have a selfish bone in her entire body. She didn't believe in discrimination or hate, only in love, living colorfully, and silver linings.

When I was 2-years-old I moved into her home with my mother, where I lived for seventeen more years. As three different generations of women, we had some uncharted territory to navigate as we all got used to co-existing in the same house.

Most of that time, I can recall us painting art together in her ceramics studio, caring for pets when she had her pet-sitting business, reading and discussing novels like The Hunger Games and The Gargoyle and The Catcher In The Rye, discussing the past, present, and future in lengthy breaths over dinner, and most of all, listening to music together. She loved young people and all our current trends, but she also loved Elvis and Frank Sinatra.

In the car, on the way to school every morning, we would swap our favorite music as we made the long commute across the city of Charlotte. Some of my favorite memories include us belting out songs by Jack's Mannequin, Carla Bruni, Little Richard, Rent and High School Music soundtracks, and even some early Panic! At The Disco songs.

She never spoke to me, or anyone like they were younger or less wise than she was. She would give the benefit of the doubt and patiently accept varied ideas, even if she didn't agree with them.

Born in New York and raised in California, she was one of the most open-minded people I'd ever met, who had a way of being opinionated but completely interested and respectful of ALL people. If you wanted to talk to her about anything (her favorite were history, politics, and fantasy) she would promptly pull a comfortable seat to the table and present you with her famous bowl of freshly baked Chex-mix and a drink of your choice.

Unlike most grandmas, she was particularly popular for her Christmastime Chex-mix, which she would proudly deliver to everyone she knew including the mail carrier, the lawn care helpers, and various clerks dotted around Charlotte as she did her holiday shopping. And if she took a real shine to you, you'd most likely be offered her favorite mix, an Amaretto spiked coffee to sip on as you swapped stories.

She had this way of captivating a room full of people with her stories. Although she always liked to pretend she didn't know that's what was happening. Her energy was electric and humble and strong. My grandmother was able to spin a story that made you feel like you had been next to her throughout the entire fiasco she was describing seamlessly. She'd always write quotes in cards too. Somehow, she managed to write EXACTLY what you needed to read at the time. It was like a sixth sense sort of power she had, being able to predict and send them a card just when they needed it most.

She had a quote book filled with hundreds of quotes for every occasion from Thomas Edison to Maya Angelou to The Rolling Stones that she would carefully select and write out in her cards of encouragement.

One of my favorite stories she told involved her recounting her times on a mission trip to Haiti. She was only 30 but was already a wife with two children, that were ten and eight years old, she was a working-class businesswoman at American Airlines, an established artist with a degree, and her own business: Two Hearts.

She would always start this story with a similar opening, "Honey, that was just the way things were then! I wasn't some Super Woman! I was just doing my best and trying to provide some joy wherever I could. And sometimes that meant traveling to a different country to bring food to the hungry, that's where I went when I could pinch my pennies and go!" We all knew she was a Super Woman, though.

The sparkle that would gleam in her beautiful, crystal blue eyes would light up with passion when she told stories or talked about history. She devoted her entire life to a single purpose: giving back even if it meant a more modest life for herself. There was never a time when she wasn't trying to find a way to succeed in helping others. Many a family member or close friend would find an open door and a welcoming, warm couch in her house when they were without one. Without her, my mom and I would have been homeless. She made sacrifices that were not easy and left her scampering around to find a way to move mountains. She seemed to always be able to make the impossible possible with ease and confidence. There was never a time where she would admit or accept any praise but simply wave her hand and insist she had nothing to do with it.

Every single person who met her found her spirit contagious and her strength a source of endless support. She was always the first responder for any event, but her especially down-to-business attitude made her an ideal problem-solver for the serious incidents that arise during emergencies. My grandmother had a heart that was larger than life, and she was only interested in sharing a laugh with the world. Her generosity was unmatched and her cornbread unrivaled.

And while I do feel as though I've been robbed of my grandmother, guardian, conversationalist, and my best friend; I also feel an immense wave of relief as I know she is no longer in pain. She can finally stop fighting and swimming against the current when she is tired. I keep wanting to pick up the call and say, "Hey Grandma! Did you hear about those genetically altered babies? Or watch that new episode about who the real Jack The Ripper is?" She always was ready to hear about something eyebrow-raising and wanted to hear what the scoop was on the latest scientific breakthrough.

Now I know I won't be able to do that again. I won't be able to ask her advice or fondly request a retelling of one of my favorite stories. The weight is heavy. I haven't been able to face it. Reality has started to set in, and I've started to realize that it will be okay. I will still get visits from her but in the form of my favorite cards or the winking stars that she'd been known to name one-by-one or an elaborate Christmas tree.

Our loved ones are never really gone. They live on in the traditions and memories we knew them by. Grief is not something you get over, but rather something you come to terms with as you accept. The pain never goes away, but it does get easier as you find comfort in the nostalgic moments that remind you of your loved one. My grandma may not be here anymore, but her legacy and love are still as potent as ever.

I hope this can help anyone out there struggling with the process find some peace. I know getting all my swirling emotions out has been a complete mess. There is only a rainbow after the rain, and the rain doesn't last forever. I can feel her strength radiating through me as I write this and I know that she is somewhere with peace and neverending rainbows. ♡

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To The Grandmothers Who Made Us The Women We Are Today

Sincerely, the loving granddaughters.
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The relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter is something so uniquely special and something to be treasured forever.

Your grandma loves you like you are her own daughter and adores you no matter what. She is the first person you run to when you have a problem with your parents and she never fails to grace you with the most comforting advice.

She may be guilty of spoiling you rotten but still makes sure to stress the importance of being thankful and kind.

Your grandma has most likely lived through every obstacle that you are experiencing now as a young adult and always knows just exactly what to say.

She grew up in another generation where things were probably much harder for young women than they are today.

She is a walking example of perseverance, strength, and grace who you aim to be like someday.

Your grandma teaches you the lessons she had to learn the hard way because she does not want you to make the same mistakes she did when she was growing up.

Her hugs never fail to warm your heart, her smile never fails to make you smile, and her laugh never fails to brighten your day.

She inspires you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

You only hope that one day you can be the mother and grandmother she was to you.

A piece of girl’s heart will forever belong to her grandma that no one could ever replace.

She is the matriarch of your family and is the glue that holds you all together.

Grandmothers play such an important role in helping their granddaughters to grow into strong, intelligent, kind women.

She teaches you how to love and how to forgive.

Without the unconditional love of your grandma, you would not be the woman you are today.

To all of the grandmothers out there, thank you for being you.

Sincerely,

the loving granddaughters

Cover Image Credit: Carlie Konuch

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Kit Kat On A Rainy Day

My grandpa went missing one rainy afternoon, but what happened later is very heartwarming!

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It was a rainy afternoon in the middle of October. The road was covered in an almost invisible film of water, and mud seeped through the cracks of the sidewalk. The wind blew at a harsh and firm angle. The temperature was sharp and bitter. I was in 10th grade at the time and had just gotten back to school. I sat at my desk upstairs with my legs comfortably nuzzled against my chest. I admired the lavender fuzzy socks on my feet while very blatantly ignoring my homework and other responsibilities. I gently sipped warm apple cider, carefully making sure that it wouldn't burn my tongue whilst scrolling through my phone. This rainy afternoon in the middle of October was seemingly very normal.

I eventually picked up a pencil and reluctantly began my homework, but was very quickly distracted by the sounds of panicked yelling coming from downstairs. I quickly made my way to the scene so that I could figure out what was going on. My mom and grandma were in the kitchen crying and screaming. My grandma sounded agitated and afraid. My mom was barely able to make out coherent sentences as she scrambled to find my dad's contact in her phone. I shuddered and felt completely frozen when I was finally able to understand what was going on.

My 85-year-old grandpa who also has Alzheimer's was missing from our home. My stream of consciousness was abruptly interrupted as I heard the door leading to our garage slam shut. My mom was going to drive around our neighborhood to look for my grandpa, as he realistically could not have made it that far. I went back upstairs and sunk into my chair. My eyes were wide and I could hear my heart beating outside of my chest. I trembled and cried. These are the kinds of horrible and unfortunate stories that you read about or watch in the news. You never expect it to happen to a loved one. The gravity of the situation is heavy. It's a very obscure and different kind of pain, one that cannot be justified with words.

The next thirty or so minutes were a blur. I was not aware of how much time had passed, but I do remember hearing the slow creak of the garage open. I did not get up and I did not run down the stairs. Instead, I sat there. I sat firmly in my chair, numb and completely frozen. From where I was, everything was temporarily easier. The pain of sitting at my desk was less scathing than confronting whatever was waiting downstairs. And then, all of a sudden, I heard very slow and uneven steps coming up the stairs, accompanied by heavy breathing. It was my grandpa.

There he was, standing about three feet in front of me. I examined him, head-to-toe. He was soaked and there were remnants of mud on his pants and shoes. His glasses were covered in intricate droplets of water, and his light grey hair was disheveled. But that is not what stood out to me. What made me want to cry even more was the smile on his face that was beaming with love, as his eyes met mine. He steadily walked towards me, put his hand in his pocket, and I watched his fragile hands shake as he pulled out a Kit Kat bar.

"For you!" He said with a little laugh.

- - -

My mom had found my grandpa in a Walgreens right outside our neighborhood. To this day I still don't know how he got there, and I do not care to know the exact fundamentals of how he got from point A to point B. This is a man whose life and memories have been unfairly taken from him. This is a man who can barely make out a sentence in either Hindi or English. This is a man who, to this very day, cannot remember my name or who I am. However, what this disease has failed to do is strip him of his innate kindness. His mind might be impaired but his ability to love is immortal and unbreakable.

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