“They shine a little brighter, they feel a little more
They touch your life in ways no one has ever done before
They love a little stronger, they live to give their best, they make our lives so blessed
So why do they go so soon, the ones with souls so beautiful?
I heard someone say… there must be Borrowed Angels, here in this life
They come along, into this world, and make this world bright
But they can’t stay forever cause they’re heaven sent
And sometimes, heaven needs them back again.”
~Kristin Chenoweth, “Borrowed Angels”
One year, and I still can’t believe you’re gone, Gram. One year, and it still doesn’t feel real. My head has long since wrapped itself around the fact that I can’t hug you anymore, can’t talk to you on the phone, can’t taste the chicken soup you cooked, can’t see your beautiful smile or hear your sweet voice. My head knows these things. But a year later, my heart’s still having trouble catching up.
One year, and sometimes I still find myself thinking you’ll be on the other end of the phone. One year, and I still wish we could chat about what’s happening on General Hospital. One year, and it still devastates me that we never got to go out for the lunch/movie date that was supposed to be your Hanukkah gift in 2010. One year, and I can still remember every moment of our last visit with vivid, almost startling, clarity. I remember the bumblebee bopping on the windowsill of your room at the rehab facility. I remember the way we all sat around in a circle and you kept smiling at us. I remember how silky smooth, how sweetly soft, your skin was as I kissed your cheek. Most of all, I remember the way you waved – the way you didn’t stop waving – as we headed to the car and stopped outside your window. You always waved for a long time whenever we parted ways – I have memories of that from the time I must’ve been four or five – but it was different that last time. Even longer, even more loving. And with hindsight, I wonder sometimes: did you have some kind of inkling? I didn’t. Not at all. Leaving that day, I fully believed I’d see you again.
I will, though. Like Carrie Underwood sings so poignantly in her song, “You are the stars to me, you are the light I follow. I will see you again, this is not where it ends … I will carry you with me.” One year, and I understand that so much better now. One year, and it’s a little easier to look back on the memories with smiles instead of tears. One year, and I’ve come to learn that grief is, in ways, a never-ending process. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Some bruises never disappear entirely. I will never be able to think of last year’s horror without feeling physically sick. Even just writing this, there’s a knot in my stomach. But though those bruises don’t ever leave, they do fade. They become a dull ache instead of a stabbing pain. They become a part of us, and maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe that omnipresent reminder needs to be one of the blocks that build our whole. Maybe it’ll always be a whisper in the back of our minds – live life to the fullest, go after your dreams and make them come true, find inspiration everywhere. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you and wish you were here. I’d give anything to feel your arms pull me into a hug again. I’d give anything to watch your car pull up in front of the house. I’d give anything to play Go Fish with you or to dip pretzels into ice cream as we share a snack. I’d give anything to have you with us.
But I can’t. And though that’ll never be okay, I think you’d be proud of the way we’re all holding up. The past month has been very difficult. Tears have been shed, terrible memories have floated to the surface even as we tried so desperately to push them aside, and hearts have been broken all over again. Seeing your plaque lit up on the synagogue’s memorial wall last week, hearing the Rabbi speak your name, it was like an arrow to the soul. One year later, and we still get choked up. One year later, and we still miss you with every fiber of our beings. One year later, and it still feels like there’s a heart-shaped hole in the family. It always will.
We’re doing alright, though. We’re embracing the things in life that make us the happiest, just like you did. We’re leaning on each other and remembering all the ways your joy, your love, and your light changed us for the better. We’re finding solace in the handprint you’ve forever left on our hearts. We’re starting to share the good memories more often now, and though there’s a wistfulness about them, there’s also a happiness. One year later, and we’re beginning to heal. For me, that’s come through writing. It has been cathartic like words cannot describe. I wish you could read MINE TO LOVE. I wish I could share my books with you. Hopefully you can still read them one day, somehow, some way. I think you will – because you always went above and beyond for your children and grandchildren, and I believe that’s still true. I feel it whenever a yellow butterfly crosses my path. I feel it whenever I have a dream about you. I feel it whenever I look at your picture. You may not be here with us physically, but you are emotionally, and for that, I am immeasurably grateful.
One year, and I still miss you so much it hurts. One year, and it’s still a crushing pain to know what happened. But … one year, and we’re healing. We’re hoping. One year, and there’s such solace in the beautiful lyrics quoted above. Whenever I listen to Kristin’s “Borrowed Angels,” I’m convinced she’s singing it about you. Thank you for making our lives so blessed. Thank you for sharing your warmth, your love, your smile, and your chicken soup :). Thank you for finding ways to remind us you’ll never stop watching over us. Thank you for being our angel. I love you forever and a day.