This blog started out as an assignment for class, something I didn’t regularly like doing and I usually fell behind on postings. But I’m thinking I didn’t enjoy it because I had to do, not because I purely wanted to. The thing is, I like writing; all my life, its been something I’ve loved to do. I think I’d die and go to heaven if I ever wrote a book and it got published, much less made it on the NY Times bestseller list.
So now I’m thinking I’m gonna keep blogging, but this time about my life and things I’ve seen and done. Lately its been a reflecting kind of mood for me, possibly because I’m nearing the end of my days in college. And I am completely scared shitless for what will come after, in total honesty. Maybe its just because of what I’ve been going through.
Since the first of the year, it seems my life has been stuck in an endless spin cycle of horrible things. Sometime in 2014 my uncle Andrew was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer, and he had been fighting tooth and nail against this cancer with every bit of power he had. Around New Year’s he had called my mom to tell her good news about his prognosis and his hopes for the future. A new semester of school and work had begun for my brother John and I, and we were headlong into it when February 2nd rolled around.
We left school and called my mom to find out what was for dinner. When she answered, she told us she was at the hospital because our grandma had been admitted and she was very sick. At this point in time, John and I hadn’t seen her in about four years since she moved with my uncle to New York. And she was deep in the stages of dementia, so we knew it wouldn’t be good. Like we figured, she didn’t recognize any of us once she was coherent enough to notice people.
Now I don’t think people really understand Alzheimer’s and how debilitating it is to people. Throughout her life, my grandmother was an extremely independent woman and now here she was laying in a hospital bed, needing help to eat and go to the bathroom. While I was feeding her dinner, she kept looking at me with this smirk on her face. I turned to my dad and said “She knows who I am. She doesn’t have to know my name but I know she knows my face and she knows me”. A little while later we were asking her questions, and she turned to me and said “Kaitlyn Hope”.
I can’t tell you how amazing it was to hear her say my first and middle names, and its a feeling I will never again experience in my lifetime. She inspired me with her resilience to get better and go home, and she was soon moved to a rehab center. John and I spent many hours there with her, and while I complained at the time, I am extremely thankful I got that time to spend with her. We stayed with her on Valentine’s Day, even after she told John she was too old to be his valentine. When we left that night, I kissed her good night and said “I love you”. She responded with “Love you too”. I didn’t know that would be the last time I ever spoke to her.
But Valentine’s Day was not completely a happy day. That day we found out Uncle Andrew wasn’t doing good and it looked like his time was very limited. A few days later, Mom left for North Carolina and we stayed behind because of school. The two weeks she was gone was an endless waiting period, wondering when the time would come that he would take his last breath. But that time never came, and on March 1st, Mom finally came home.
Two days later, Mom, Uncle Robert and I became road warriors as we raced along the 12 hour drive back to Duke University in Durham. Just before 11 p.m., we made it to the hospital and went to see Uncle Andrew, who was extremely excited to see us. He looked gaunt and needed an oxygen mask over his face to breathe. Despite what my mother had said to prepare me about his appearance, at that moment nothing that she said made a difference. I was broken to see the effect this cancer had on him, how it was ravaging his body. But it never broke his spirit because he still had a smile on his face and so much love in his heart.
We left not long after because he needed to rest, but he told me he loved me and that he was happy I was there with him. The next day was March 5th, a date I won’t soon forget. I can’t talk about the events of the entire day because it just hurts too much. But at 7:42 pm, less than 24 hours after we got back to Duke, heaven gained another angel through the soul of my beloved Uncle Andrew.
Losing him felt like someone had ripped a part of me away, and I cannot even imagine how it feels for my mother and her other seven siblings. I believe I only got through the next few days because I was with my extended family, and when I finally saw my dad and John again, I couldn’t help but sob. Finally making it home to Florida and trying to get back to normal life was even worse. Pictures of Uncle A are everywhere in my house, and it just hurt so much to realize he was gone.
Days became an empty rhythm of laying in bed staring at the ceiling or trying to function normally. I hadn’t worked in nearly a month, and when I finally went back I almost couldn’t handle it. I wondered if I had hit rock bottom yet, even though I tried so hard outwardly to keep it together.
But life threw another rotten lemon my way on March 26th, a Thursday morning exactly three weeks to the day Uncle A had passed away. I awoke to my mother sobbing over me, finally choking out “Grandma’s gone”. Her words went right over me, I was numb to the pain of loss already. I didn’t cry until about three hours later when my dad came home and collapsed onto me, completely and utterly broken over the loss of his mother.
Now I know people that try to tell me I know how you feel are full of shit. There are so many people in this world who haven’t lost nearly as many people as my family has. John and I grew up only with our paternal grandparents, never knowing my mother’s parents. At age 8, my grandfather died and it still remains one of the worst periods of my life. Fourteen years later, his death still feels as fresh as it did that April morning and it still hurts just as much.
While losing the people we love is quite possibly the most painful thing to feel, it exists to teach us that life is fragile and to love with every part of our being. I am blessed to have 22 years of my life with a grandmother who loved me so much and taught so much about the world around me and the person that I am, and for an uncle who made me laugh always and brought out the best in people. Every experience in life makes us the person we are today.
While I am still broken and grieving, I am still alive, still a human being with the capability to love endlessly and know how much my family means to me. I believe in miracles, I’ve seen them firsthand from Gram and Uncle Ace.The spirit of my loved ones lives on in me, and guides me each day as I know they watch down from heaven. Goodbyes are not permanent; only temporary.