Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Without You

I wasn't sure if I was going to write about this but I think since it hasn't left my mind that I should definitely try to let it out somehow. I had an interview yesterday morning in Des Plaines, the company was literally just a few miles down from the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. While leaving the interview I actually debated about stopping by their crypts (they didn't want to be buried in the ground and instead are resting in a private mausoleum). Part of me felt guilty for not having stopped by sooner or more frequently, the last time I was there was in the spring of last year, sometime around my birthday. Another part of me knew I couldn't handle it, going there and being by myself, alone with my thoughts and just so alone in every definition of the word. Maybe I was afraid of the silence, afraid the peacefulness of that spot. I decided to go and visit, pay my respects since I was already in the area, again feeling guilty of the "convenience" of the situation. Since their mausoleum is located off of a private road away from the main cemetery, I drove slowly around the bend. There must have been an inch of snow on the ground, nothing difficult to drive in. As I came around the bend I was going no more than 5 mph and was gliding along in neutral, my foot off of the gas. Suddenly and in slow motion, my car spun twice out of control, completing two 360's. I sat there with the gear shift in neutral and my hands in the air because no kind of counter steering would have prevented it. And in those few seconds that I was spinning I surprisingly found myself praying, talking to my grandparents who are no longer with me and this provided me with some kind of solace. I'm not religious by any means and I believe Catholicism is hugely flawed but I do believe in God and the idea that there is something more when we die. I am not going to get into that now but after that happened I regained control of my car and parked, grateful that there were no other cars or visitors nearby. As I walked to their crypts my legs were shaking, I doubt that I was in shock from the spin-outs but I felt oddly calm. Inside I felt a familiar stirring, I found it difficult to swallow and as I rounded the corner, tears streamed down my face--fresh, salty and warm. The pain in my heart grew and it felt empty without them, I felt empty without them, it was as if they had passed just yesterday. I put my tear-stricken face up to the frozen marble plaques where their names were side by side and felt so sad, the saddest I've felt in the longest time. After I left the cemetery I made my way back home and just felt so lost. No other feeling or experience can compare to losing someone you love, unfortunately I lost the both of them within a year of each other and I think in that time my heart hasn't healed, not sure really if it ever will. Ultimately I am grateful for the 20 years I've had with them, oftentimes I've forgotten that they raised me more so than my parents. My father was in the Philippines until I was about 7 or 8 and my mom was at work during the day and at DePaul every night, finishing her degree. My childhood memories consist of many days and nights with my grandparents and the safety, security and love I felt in the simple acts they showed me. The last memory and the last time I saw my grandmother was in a hospice center. She wasn't staying there permanently, she was moved there from the hospital for weekend observation. I followed her ambulance on Lake Shore Drive and my mind was clear, in front of me I could barely make out my mom's silhouette as she hovered over my grandma. I remembered thinking that this was it, that her time was almost here and there was nothing I could do to stop it. In her room, with an expired nursing tech certificate, I bathed my grandma in her bed and she smiled the entire time, thanking me incessantly as I held the warm sponge to her then yellow skin caused by her liver infection. In that moment the roles had reversed, as she had bathed me and cared for me as a child, it was my turn to take care of her and although it saddens me that she passed so soon after my grandpa, I'm also grateful it wasn't any longer because living without him was no life at all for her. And now I'm sad again, but I feel strangely better after having let that all out. All I'm saying is that telling the people you love that you love them whenever you get the chance isn't enough. Make the effort to tell them everyday, at least that's what I try to do because these moments turn into memories too quickly and the emptiness in our hearts will never be filled again.

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