When Tragedy Strikes: A Goodbye Letter

You might have noticed we’ve been a little bit silent around here. Two weeks ago today, I lost both of my grandparents in a devastating house fire. Understandably, I needed to take some time for myself, be with my family and begin the healing process. In the 14 days since, I’ve received countless e-mails, phone calls and text messages from friends from far and wide I’ve remained relatively silent. It is my hope that in the coming days and weeks that things fall back into place and I am able to resume my previously scheduled blog posts. 

I’ve written this a thousand times in my mind. I have all the right words, things I want to say. Then I pick up a pen and a piece of paper and my mind goes blank. I’ve experienced loss before; but never a loss quite like this.

Despite all of my sadness and overwhelming emotions, I still have not cried. My heart is heavy and my mind continues to race into the early morning hours. I try to think of the things I’d want to say if they were both sitting in front of me, and my thoughts are empty. I wonder if I’ve said everything I’ve needed to say, said “I love you” enough or expressed how lucky I was to have such incredible grandparents who supported me through the highs and the lows in my life.

I couldn’t have ordered a better pair of grandparents from a catalog if such a thing existed. 

Don’t grieve. Everything you love comes round in another form.
— Rumi

It’s funny, the things I’m remembering when I think of them. The afternoons I spent pretending to be a mermaid in their swimming pool—I lived in that pool for a bulk of my youth. I’d yell for my grandmother when I was done playing “shark bait” for the day, and she’d meet me at the steps of the pool with a fresh from the dryer towel. We’d leave my grandfather in the pool, with no towel of course, so I could eat his last snack pack pudding before he got into the house. 

He quickly forgave me; he’d carry me to my parents car from the living room ottoman I was usually perched on, afraid a scorpion or some other insect was going to bite my bare feet. I remember one day, I was helping him feed his chickens and the big, territorial rooster attacked me. I demanded he be “taken care of” and the very next day we had him for dinner. Not that I’m promoting violence or anything, but as far as I’m aware, he has been the only one to “take care” of something that hurt me. No doubt he would have handled my husband, too. I kid. I kid.

He may not have been my grandfather by blood, but he was there when I was born and every step of the way since then. It's hard to imagine what my life would have been like had he not swept my grandmother off of her feet.

As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m going to miss his tacos and his perfected breakfast for dinner. 

Perhaps this is what the stories meant when they called somebody heartsick. Your heart and your stomach and your whole insides felt empty and hollow and aching.
— Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

No doubt, my childhood is filled with loving memories from my grandmother but it’s only been in recent years that she began to open up about her childhood in Germany, the guilt she carried from her first marriage and the loss of two children. She was stronger than she gave herself credit for, and her story of pulling a knife on a red-haired American soldier with a Jewish last name for being inappropriate was a testament to that. Who knows if that actually happened, but when she first met my husband, she said she was happy that he didn’t have red hair because she wouldn’t have been able to trust him.

At my wedding, she was referred to everyone as my rock. And I'd like to believe that she's here with me, helping me be strong when all I want to do is breakdown into a million tiny pieces. 

Come back. Even as a shadow, even as a dream.
— Euripides

When she’d ask for new skincare products, I’d usually catch her using Elmer’s glue on her face despite a thousand dollars worth of product in front of her.

Neither of them wanted a service; both of them just wanted to simply be let go. Perhaps they thought people had forgotten about them or they didn’t want anyone to go out of their way for them. In the days since that unexpected knock on the door, I’ve been trying to think of a way to preserve their memory. Celebrate who they were. One thing is for certain: they knew how to throw a party. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and the empty feeling you’ve left will be gone. We’ll throw a party with lots of German food, especially her favorite Black Forest cake. We might have some macaroni and cheese, just for tradition sake. There’d be lots of Brandy and Scotch, even though none of us particularly enjoy either. If we're going to be authentic, then I'd suppose we'd also have a chilled bottle of that Broken Earth Chardonnay that he loved so much, too.

I’m sad that I didn’t get to go gambling with her one last time, or that my husband and mother didn’t get to join Jim on their planned fishing trip to catch salmon. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure they get their time on the water and perhaps dad and I will hit the slot machines; we’ll walk around searching for the perfect machine, just like you taught us.

Don’t worry about us. Together we’ll get through this. You taught us to be strong and we’re each doing out part to pick up the pieces. We love you.

Love, Nanny