Sunday, April 24, 2016.

The phone is ringing. My eyes flutter as the sun streams in through my dorm room window, I stir and grab at my phone, unplugging it from the speaker on the bedside table. Mom had already called me twice that morning.

“Hello?”

“Honey-“

“Mom what’s going on?

“Grandpa passed away in his sleep last night.”

I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t even force myself to cry. I could only sit on the floor with back pressed up against my twin bed and sit there in shock. They had just been with him yesterday. The doctors had said six months to a year at best. But months had turned to hours overnight, and my grandfather - the man I’d idolized my entire life, was gone.

I remember the last time I saw you. It was back in November, we'd come to see you in the nursing home. I remember being so shocked at how skinny and frail you'd become. It was a terrifying contrast from the tall, strong man, who used to tower over me when i was young. I don't think I ever knew real heartbreak until I had to watch you grow so weak, frail and eventually slip away until there was nothing left. I could tell you wanted to be brave for us, for all of us. But I know you saw my smile wavering. So you reached out, took my hand and told me you weren’t scared. That just made it worse. The second they wheeled you away, I looked at my sister and I burst into tears. I never wanted you to see me cry.

I remember when I realized you weren't going to get better. That it just wasn't possible. By that point, you were too weak to fight it off. I held on the hope of the impossible, that you'd grow stronger and be able to at least live a few more years. I'd realized that the idea that you didn't have a lot of time left, was in fact a reality. Yet I refused to resign myself to the truth. If there's one thing this year has taught me it's that realization is one thing, acceptance is another.

I remember the last time I spoke to you. It had been the day before you passed. I called my parents, and they had happened to be with you in Chicago. I only got to talk to you for a minute. By that time - by the end, you could barely talk or hear me. I told you i'd see you soon, that i'd try and come just as soon as school was done. I remember you told me you loved me, I said that I loved you too, and that was it.

I remember the first birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and every other holiday and occasion that I had to spend without you this past year. Each was marked by the painful realization that you aren't here, and that you never will be again. All that remains are the birthday cards, letters, and memories that you left behind. They are things that I will cherish more and more as the years go by. I will cherish the lessons you taught me, the stories you told, and most of all the 19 years I was so fortunate to have with you.

While I can't know where you are exactly, I hope that it's beautiful, that there is no suffering, and that you are at peace.

with my love, always.

-Alena