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April 10, 2014

Dear Grandma: As You Leave This Life. ~ Cheri Elizabeth Palmer

Grandma

I lost my Grandmother last week.

She was such an amazing person—the epitome of a lady—small in stature, yet larger than life. She left this life on her own terms, showing one last time the strength of character and bravery she exhibited throughout her life. She was never one for long and tearful scenes, so she asked us to send her goodbye letters.

I felt the words pour out of my heart and on to the paper as I let her go.

I mourn her with the bittersweet feeling of knowing that she is gone forever, but reunited with her soul mate.

Dear Grandma,

I’m not exactly sure how to write a letter like this, so I think I will just let the thoughts flow out of my brain and heart to my fingers.

I want you to know firstly that I am so very proud of you. I think the decision you have made—to make life bend to your terms—is extremely brave and admirable. I am proud to be part of you, and I hope that my life reflects your strength. I support you completely, and let you go freely. I know you haven’t wanted to be here since Grandpa left. It gives me comfort to know that you will be with him, as it should be.

I believe I told you about the dream I had, when Grandpa visited me.

In the dream, we were all at your house, and everything was exactly as it really is (which is strange for my dreams). We all sat in your family room, scattered across chairs, couches, the floor, and I heard a noise and looked out the big front window to see a bright red cardinal.

The next moment, the cardinal was in the house, beating at the windows with his wings and falling behind furniture. I chased him until I caught him.

I could feel his heart beating in my hands.

I walked out the door, threw my hands up into the air and the cardinal soared away. He looked back at me, and in that moment, I knew it was Grandpa and that everything would be okay.

The next time Grandpa came to my dreams, he was himself.

He was dressed in a light colored suit with his fedora, looking very dapper and dashing. I was sitting on a street somewhere in Europe, at a café table and he suddenly appeared in the chair across from me. He reached across the table and laid his hand on mine, and in my mind I saw the two of you standing together.

He was strong and protective and looking down at you with so much love— you were young and beautiful and smiling brilliantly up at him with your hand on his arm. The vision vanished and I heard his voice in my head telling me he was worried about you.

I know without a doubt that he is waiting for you, Grandma.

I found a beautiful antique typewriter (“antique” is probably superfluous since my kids didn’t even know what a typewriter was) and I decided that I was going to use it to write my story. The very first paragraph that came out was this:

 “One of my first memories is of ravioli and buttermilk and my Grandmother’s kitchen floor. I don’t think Grandma ever actually served ravioli and buttermilk at the same time, and certainly not on the floor, but they were two of my very favorite things and I still equate them with her home. The kitchen floor was red, and patterned in lovely lines that swooped and curved like paths leading to fantastic worlds waiting to be discovered. I was safe there—I belonged. I was assured of my place in the world, and the hearts of those around me.”

As I wrote this, I could feel the warmth of your home, and the love you never denied me.

I don’t think there are words to describe what your love and acceptance have always meant to me. I won’t allow myself to go down the path of regret, “I wish I had called more often”, “I wish I had done more,”—but I do have those thoughts.

I hope that you know how very much I love you, and how grateful I am to you for never denying me like my parents have.

I know that you will watch over me when you have gone, and I hope that my life and choices are something you can look on with pride. I want to teach my children to honor the legacy that you and Grandpa have laid down for us—to work hard, to take pride in their work and to love their family.

I want you to know that I am happy.

I have found a place of peace within myself and am cultivating it every day.

The difference in my life is astounding. When I stopped trying to improve myself for others, and focused on improving myself for me, my life changed completely. I am now focused on my children and living life to the fullest every day.

We are planting roots and reaching for the sky.

The light in their eyes tells me I have made the right choice.

I love you, Grandma. You inspire me and I am proud to be your granddaughter. I know that I will miss you with that ache in my heart that comes with loss, but it will also be with the joy of a wonderful life lived fully. Until we meet again…

Love,

Cheri

 

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Apprentice Editor: Brandy Mansfield / Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Author’s own

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Cheri Elizabeth Palmer