An Open Letter to My Grandmother (On the Anniversary of Her Death)

My Grandmother died five days before my seventh birthday on the 23rd of April 1997. These are things I would say to her if I knew she could hear me.

Dear Granny,

Seventeen years. Wow. Nearly two decades. You’ve been dead almost three times as long as I’ve been alive and I miss you. I miss you so much my heart is sore and I can’t stop the tears from welling in my eyes or the pain I feel. And I want you to know that every person who told me that my heart would heal and that the pain would stop was a liar. It has never stopped hurting. It just hurts differently.

I don’t regret many things in life but I regret that my seven-year-old self did not realize how serious things were when I saw you that last time. And, I’m sorry Granny because I spent the entire time in that hospital room being slightly awed that I’d finally seen an oxygen mask in “real life” for the first time. You see I thought in no time you’d be home and everything would be alright. I couldn’t understand why the aunts were crying or the cousins or my mum so I didn’t try to understand. I just kept focusing on that stupid mask. And, I’m sorry because when ma called me into her room the next morning and told me you had died I was too busy watching the sunlight filter through the window. Now that I have had years to think about it, I think I just didn’t want to hear. I’m sorry that I didn’t cry then. I’m sorry that I didn’t cry in the days that followed and that I still managed to be excited for my birthday. I’m sorry that the highlight of the day of your funeral was that I got out of school early. I’m sorry I didn’t cry then either. But, seventeen years later, I still see your casket being wheeled up the aisle sometimes when I let my guard down. And I’ve cried so many tears since then that my teardrops should be enough to build me an ocean to swim to wherever you are. I cry whenever I see an old woman walking down the road because I wish you were still here. And I cry because I hate the world for having the audacity to keep on spinning without you in it. You’ve missed weddings and graduations and the birth of great-grandchildren. You’ve missed a black president and iPads. You’d be so surprised to see how big we’ve all gotten now. And, remember that time I convinced you to give me your grape soda and have my orange juice instead? Remember how I pointed out that sodas were unhealthy and you were old so you needed the Vitamin C more than I did? Yes, I know I argued more than most kids my age. And yes, I know sometimes I was probably a little bit (read: very) annoying. Well, you’d be proud to know that I’ve figured out a way to make arguing a job. Let’s hope the Courts are ready for me.

I panic sometimes because it’s getting harder and harder to remember your face. You’ve become hazy in my mind. Forgive me but I don’t remember your voice or your laugh. I can’t remember your smile. I’ve not forgotten everything, though. I remember that you were loving and kind. I remember that you were really, really patient when I got into trouble wandering off like some wild-child when everyone else my age was stuck in pre-school. I remember your favourite hymn was the Lily of the Valley. I know we sang it at your funeral. And, although it may have been a big stretch to think that Lilies were your favourite flowers too – I’ve assigned them to you. In a couple years from now (many, many, many), some little girl will bear the name Lily in honour of you.

I can’t remember everything, Granny, but I remember the love I felt for you. And, even without you here it continues to grow, because neither time nor the icy fingers of death can dislodge the torch I will always carry for you in my heart.

So sleep on beautiful soul.

I love you.

Photo Credit: per kongsky
Photo Credit: per kongsky


PS: If you and Uncle Joe are together right now tell him I’m still here, holding the fort and stirring up enough trouble to make him proud.


3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Grandmother (On the Anniversary of Her Death)

  1. This is so beautiful Rilzy. Thank you for sharing it with us. You’ve just summed up everything we feel when we lose someone when we’re too young to comprehend what that loss means.
    Your grandmother will be proud. Xx

  2. Lovely story. I’m sure your grandma would agree that it’s time to stop beating yourself up for being a 7 year old and not understanding the complexities of death. That’s a young age to deal with death. Time to forgive yourself for being a child when you were a child and you reacted as any child would. Blessings.

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