More Than "Grandma": A Personal Narrative

For my English class we were challenged to write a piece that talks about something that impacted us, something that sort of made us who we are today. I wrote a piece that came straight from my heart, and apparently my teacher saw that. He had a few other teachers, and the principal read it, which is a little scary. He read it out loud to my parents at parent-teacher conferences, which is also a wee bit nerve wracking.

But I'm going to put it here, so you can see a piece of my heart that I hold close.

Click "Read More" to continue reading past the first paragraph.

* * *

I remember being told she was dying. The day when I was playing games with my siblings, shaking with laughter as we splattered paint so that the brave knight in shining armor had a masculine hot pink cape and boots the color of the sky. We were clutching our stomachs and nearly crying as we tried to stifle our laughter when someone's footsteps were heard from the stairs. Footsteps that sounded as if the weight of the world rested solely on one person's shoulders. Footsteps filled with pain. No one was laughing anymore.

My father came down those stairs, his forehead creased with lines of sadness. “She's not doing well. We don't think she has much time left,” was all he said. Soft ticking came from the tiny clock on the countertop, keeping time to the fog that had clouded my mind. My mouth felt suddenly dry.

My grandma. Gone? I couldn't even comprehend that. The same woman who had played games with me when I was little, crinkles appearing by her smiling eyes as I celebrated matching two wooden blocks with cheerful red birds painted on them. The one who I ate windmill cookies with, the spices mingling deliciously with the cool glass of milk that was always on hand. She always smelled like bread. Her warm hugs were accompanied with the soft whisper of “I love you” in my hair, a gentle pat on my back. Comfort could always be found my grandma's arms, a safe refuge from anything and everything bad in the world.

We weren't especially close, but my favorite memories can be found with her. She was, and still is, my role model. She was never afraid to be Jesus to the world, earning her name as the “Bread Lady” by the acts of kindness she did for people. Soft, fluffy, homemade bread would make its way to the hands of anyone who needed a little bit of light in their life. Hope lit up their faces as soon as the first whiff of bread reached their nose, soon followed by my smiling grandma. Her faith was in everything she said and did, and she had a fiery passion for the Bible. She would sit long hours at the table reading passages from her worn out book, tipping her glasses up on her nose and straightening the old lamp in the corner to get a better light on the pages.

She was so full of life, the very idea of death had always seemed so far away.

The next few weeks and months were a blur. Hospital visits inseparable from the distinct smell of medicine and the starchy hint of overly clean rooms and waxed floors. Congested coughs echoed through hallways covered with the deceiving paintings on the wall to make it feel like home. It wasn't home. Comforting words and reassuring hugs were a common theme, and music also seemed to be a way to help ease the pain that clouded my grandma's life. I played my flute for her one time, the clear, almost hollow notes bouncing their way along the hallway, reaching ears besides the ones I was playing for. One elderly woman came tottering towards the source of the music, thanking me for making her daily walk a little less of a burden, and a little more of a pleasure. Her smile was brighter than the sun.

I wanted to do something, anything, that could take away my grandma's pain, to make it all better. I wanted a magic wand that I could wave and have her be her old, healthy, cancer-free self. I didn't have a magic wand, or a wishing well. I couldn't just throw a penny into a fountain and expect my way to come about. I was as helpless as if someone had tied my arms and legs and told me to swim. I did pray about it. I begged God not to take away someone that I loved. I knew he was listening to my cries, but that almost made it worse because it seemed like my letters to God had gotten lost on their way to heaven.

Like a sandcastle getting washed away by the tide, I lost my grandma in January. She had been the sandcastle, God had been the tide, taking her away from the earth and up with him into the great expanse of heaven. I couldn't pretend as if she had never been. When a sandcastle gets wiped out, the sand remains, even if the form does not.

Wearing my best dress with tiny flowers, my thin cardigan doing little to stay the icy fingers that clenched around my heart, I had to shake hands with person after person, friend after friend. I put on my brave face for the entire visitation, even though inside my insides were shattered like broken glass. Even in that same week, sitting in an old, scratchy feeling pew in a church while the pastor recounted her life, nothing was able to soothe the deep ache in my heart.

My grandma was gone.

As the years passed, the ache became a dull, pulsing background to the buzz of everyday life, surfacing once and a while to a raging storm. Even while my emotions were in turmoil, God wrapped me in a warmth that gently washed away the grief that so suddenly consumed me. That same warmth was planted in myself, and I found that I tended to pass it on to my family, especially my mother. When she cried, I cried with her, holding her in my arms as she remembered the woman that had made the name “Mom” so much more than a name.

 To me, she was more than just “Grandma.” She was an amazing woman of faith, a person with compassion, someone who only wanted to make sure that others never were surrounded by the thick, choking fog of depression and hurt. Even if she was buried underneath that fog herself, she always kept the sunshine in her pocket to share with others. Yes, she was more than just “Grandma” to me.


  1. A touching piece of writing.. I could relate to you

    1. Thank you. Sad that we all have to go through this at one time or another.

  2. I lost my Aunt almost 2 years ago. It was a shock, and the saddest thing that ever happened to me. This piece is so beautifully written, describing perfectly the grief of losing a loved one.

    1. I'm so sorry. Losing my grandma was a shock too, but writing this I think that it helped me to really take all of the grief and emotions I had (and still have) whirling in my head and make something out of it. It helped me to get through my sadness, I think.

  3. That was a really cool piece of writing! I remember you telling me about "The Bread Lady" :)

    1. Thanks, July. (: She definitely earned her nickname!


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