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This Life and Beyond

Momservation: Grief is the price we pay for love. ~ Queen Elizabeth II

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It was time for her to go and we all knew it.

The sadness was masked by an urgency to somehow have a proper goodbye in the time of Coronavirus; a desire to have her go peacefully into the sunset of her life and not suffer the final ravages of dementia.

And she did. My 94 year-old grandma slipped away peacefully the way she always wanted—in her home of 70 years that her father built for her and her young family—two of whom were by her side as she left to join those she loved waiting for her.

And now the sadness has crept in, blanketing me like the Monterey fog she put up with for the price of her ocean view. She hated the fog and would hate that it has settled over me, blinding my way forward.

“Kelli!” I can hear her admonish me for lingering in bed where it feels safe. “The sun is always shining somewhere.”

I smile as I picture her, my 4’11” (“and three quarters!” she adds) Gramma, who I could envelope in a hug by junior high, but who towered above me my whole life—50 years—as a beacon of unconditional love, her waiting embrace always a safe harbor in any storm.

At the end she could weakly drag her thumb across our entwined hands, a final gesture of our transcendent love for each other, as I whispered once more my longtime promise to her: “I love you this life and beyond.”

Looking at the black and white photos of her in an album she had created then stashed away, as her ashes sit waiting to be taken to Yosemite, the youthful pictures now tell the story of why she wanted it to be her final resting place. We finally see the beautiful, stylish, young, playful woman in love none of us knew, memories she chose to keep to herself, smiling from these pages. It is fun to see her as so much more than Gramma; so healing to watch her come back to life in this 5-album picture show from youth to great-great-grandmother.

The fog continues to lift as I go through a box given to me of cards and letters I sent her over the years, kept as priceless treasure, a time capsule of our devotion to each other.

“You remind me of home,” says one hand-crafted card I mailed to her of a whimsical garden cottage.

And now as the fate of her home four blocks from Cannery Row gets debated by her children, her possessions sorted and claimed, her ashes blessed and her life boiled down to a 290-word obituary, I retreat to the home I have always shared with my gramma:

My heart and soul. She is there, as she has always been and always will be. And she’s right. The sun is always shining here.

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