On June 11th, 2005, my world changed forever. Two days before I graduate from high school will mark the 10th anniversary of my grandma's death. My grammy was my world. She was my everything. She made me feel so safe, so loved, so indescribably happy. She would let me brush her curly hair and paint her nails whatever color I wanted. She would let me sleep in between my grandpa and her in their big bed when my mom was out of town. She would hold me in her arms when my feelings were hurt or when I was upset. Her sweet voice sang out old Irish tunes and The Three Tenors when I came home from school. I think about her everyday. I love her so much that sometimes I think my heart will burst.
On my last day of high school, many of my classmates cried. They cried about leaving friends and school. They cried because ending high school is emotional. It means you are no longer a child; you're an adult. I too cried on the last day of school but privately. I cried because all I wanted was to have my grandma there. I wanted her to see me graduate in June. I wanted her to give me one of her amazing hugs and tell me how proud she was that I made it through the most difficult four years of my life thus far. I wanted to be able to look out at the crowd when I was getting my diploma, and more than anyone else, I wanted to see her smile.
For the first year after my grandma died, I was in denial. I would sit with my grandpa eating oatmeal at the kitchen counter, and the side door would start to open. My little heart would get so excited. Then the door would open, and it wouldn't be her. It wasn't her. On Thanksgiving, I looked down at my plate expecting to see grandma's mashed potatoes: perfectly creamy, expertly salted, just the right amount of milk and butter. Her potatoes were nowhere to be found. At Christmas, I expected to see my grandma's knitting needles clicking away making sweaters for her family. Her yarn was boxed up in the garage. After a year, when the side door started to open, my heart would sink. I now knew that she wasn't coming back. Her death wasn't some cruel, sick joke. She was the person that filled the void my father created when he left. She was the person that made me okay after being excluded at school. She was the person that taught me that being different was a wonderful gift. She showed me how to open up my heart and how to love others with all of my might. And she was gone.
I then started to try and bargain with God. My grandma was a very religious woman and a devout Catholic. I begged God for her to come back. I said he could take all my animals, even my favorite elephant. I said he could take all my clothes and shoes and precious purses. I said he could take my house and my right pinky toe. Whatever he wanted he could have. Nothing mattered without her.
In middle school, I started to get angry. After my mom would tuck me into bed, I would grab the giant pink pig my grandma had bought me at Costco years earlier and sob hysterically into it so no one could hear me weep. My tears were filled with anger. Why did God have to take her? Why did he have to take the most giving, loving, resilient, wonderful person on the planet? How could he do this to her, to me, to grandpa, to mom, to my aunts and uncles, to my cousins? How could he?
Depression started to slowly creep up on me. It started in 8th grade and got worse and worse. My heart felt so empty. I tried to fill the hole with food and unhealthy friendships. I was so miserable. I knew the hole could never be filled.
On the last day of high school when I sat in a classroom and cried longing for her to still be on this planet, I felt her presence just for a moment. I felt the warmth that one of her hugs used to give me. I felt my guardian angel, my precious, lovely grammy, looking down on me making sure I was okay.
I struggle with faith. I struggle with being vulnerable and letting people see all of me, not just the happy, shiny, bright parts. I don't know that I will ever be able to fully accept that she is gone, but I do know that the hole in my heart she left behind serves as a reminder to me of the incredible woman she was. The hole reminds me of everything she knew I could be. The hole reminds me that I once was capable of letting someone see my strengths, my faults, the entirety of who I am.
Grammy, I grieve for you everyday. I am your Katie Margaret always and forever. I wish I could have taken you to the Opera. I wish you could have seen me graduate from high school. Know that I am thinking of you when I hear Plácido Domingo or The Irish Tenors singing Danny Boy. I love you. I hope one day I can love someone else in the way that you loved me.