Rebecca Caraway is a journalism senior and the Mustang News Opinion Editor. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
My oma (grandmother) passed away on the second day of spring quarter. I was in my visual communications class when she passed; I had no clue. You always think you’ll get a gut feeling about these things, but I didn’t. I was focused on my class and putting assignments in my calendar.
I checked my phone when class ended and saw three missed calls from my parents. That’s when I knew.
Loving someone with dementia means you grieve them for years before they even die. You grieve the pieces of them that die, the stories they no longer remember, you grieve their laugh, their memory of you. It was hard to accept that she’s no longer here. I know it’s selfish to still want her here even though she was sick, but I wasn’t ready to let her go. I knew her time was coming to an end, but I didn’t know it was coming so quickly; I thought I at least had a few more months.
The most painful part of my oma’s death was that I didn’t know she was dying and I wasn’t there with her. All I thought about when she died was how I wasn’t there. I spent her last morning here on Earth at my internship, then I went to class and was laughing with friends as she took his last breaths.
I kept thinking about how I should have been there, I was her granddaughter, I should’ve been there. I thought about how pointless my classes and internship seemed, I was angry that they kept me distracted.
Of course it’s not my fault, I didn’t know, I couldn’t have known. But I wasn’t there in the end which means I’ll never see her again. My grandmother was gone, my last living grandparent, and I didn’t say goodbye.
When I heard she died I felt like I was grieving whole generations of my family. I grieved my grandparents, who would never meet my future spouse, never see me graduate, never know me as an adult. I grieved my great grandparents, people I never met but who suffered so I could be here. I grieved my parents, who will one day leave me on this ever growing but lonely earth. I grieved ancestors whose names I don’t know, will never know, and whose stories are gone forever.
My grandmother was the symbolic monarch of our family, losing her feels like we’ve lost a whole generation of history and stories.
College is such an inconvenient place to grieve, no one here knows my oma, knows her rich history, knows my family; I felt so isolated. I thought about going home but what would the point be? I’d waste a hundred bucks on gas just to sit around with my family and be sad.
In the days and weeks following her death I found it difficult to keep up with the demand of college. Homework seemed like an impossible task, my mind was elsewhere. The only thing that kept me going was my oma’s voice telling me not to get distracted, to stay focused. I know she wouldn’t want me to lose sight of my goals so close to the finish line.
So I’ve put my head down and continued life like normal. Work, internship, class and homework. It’s hard to talk about her to my friends, especially to those that didn’t know her. I’m not good at expressing my emotions or opening up to people and asking for help. However not talking about her has made my grief feel even more isolating.
It still feels weird that she’s gone, it hits me at weird times. A few days after she died I got so sick I had to go to the hospital, because apparently when you think your week can’t get any worse, it can.
As I sat in that hospital bed it hit me that I couldn’t call her. Whenever something was going wrong in our family we would call oma, she would pray for us, and somehow things always worked out. She was always there to give her support in small ways.
I was doing my makeup for work the other day and remembered that she was the one who bought me my favorite lipstick. At work I served an elderly couple who were taking their granddaughter out to lunch.
It’s these small moments that hurt but in an odd way bring peace. She will always be a part of me. Her stories are now mine, her legacy and dry humor live on through me. I’m here writing to you because of their generations of brave, brilliant women before me. That’s what keeps me going, knowing that they are watching over me and still live on through me.
I will always miss my grandmother, but she’s not gone, not really. She lives on through me and the rest of my family. Forever carrying her love with us.