My grandmother died shortly after I had learnt, from the best teacher, that hearts could be broken. My first love had hopped on with bits of me to a lover he would later deny, in the manner of all men who have yet to learn that they, too, deserve love. She had lived for over eight decades – my grandmother – and had seen countless hospital doors. As it turns out, old age is a sickness in these parts, not a thing to be celebrated or yearned after.
My grandmother was a well of wisdom and a shower of affection. She gave kisses. Lingering kisses. Full-bodied and sudden. On the lips. Always. Sometimes more than just once or twice. She treated kisses like sighs, or chuckles – a thing without which no conversation is worth having. I saw her seldom, my grandmother, but I loved her plenty. Sometimes in smiles and silences but I loved her with much certainty – even in my chaotic years of questioning.
In the manner of grandmothers, she collected things that reminded her of people she loved and gave them to those who needed them the most. She held so many of us in her heart. That beautiful heart that housed all these strangers – children of her children. She taught me two of my favorite ways of healing. She taught me to know when to sing and when to cry. It’s a beautiful secret that has kept me happy for the most part of my short years.
The rays of sun had started to paint the horizon in the colours of joy when I got the phone call. My father’s voice sounded like bee stings as he tiptoed around his thoughts on the other side of the line, trying to find the perfect words to say, to make his mother’s passing seem a little less tragic than it really was. My father has always been known to be amazing with words. He is a heart-soother – the ultimate smile-painter. But this time, his was a blank canvas, and I had no strength or bravery for paintbrushes. Something cracked inside of me. I quivered and I cried. The tears came from the tip of my belly, from the same sides I once was tickled by angels who now no longer remember my name.
The only grandmother I have ever known was turning into dust as though all the prayers I had mumbled on her behalf, with all the life I had had left, were long forgotten by whoever lives beyond the sunrise.
The news found no resting place in my already worsening brokenness. I refused to accept it as truth. Especially when those who cared about me accused me of strength and offered me thoughts and prayers when all I ached for was an embrace.
The next morning I sang and collected things that reminded me of people I loved – beginning with my grandmother and my ex-lover. I collected buttons and scarves, bags and beads; and on days when the heavens cried, I collected raindrops and whispered prayers of thanksgiving – because no life is ever lost. Death is trickery.