5:30 AM Sunday March 30th, and I am wide awake. It’s not because I’m coming home from one of those nights to remember (and will likely forget). No, I’m waiting for a call informing me of a reality that I have not yet grown to accept.
7:00 AM Sunday March 30th, and my stepmother calls to tell me my grandmother has passed away. It’s not an entirely surprising occurrence. She has spent the last two months in and out of hospitals and nursing homes, her body a human laboratory for modern medicine.
Despite the inevitability of her demise, I cry. In the course of two and a half months, I have lost both of my grandmothers. And while the nature of my relationship with each of them was quite different, there is one critical commonality between them: their commitment to loving me, in spite or perhaps because of my flaws.
Each had a unique vision for my future. My mother’s mother saw me as the future of the Jewish people, and as such was committed to my matrimonial quest. My father’s mother believed in my ability to leave the world slightly better than the one I had entered. She subsequently supported me in my academic and social activist pursuits.
They collectively invested in my potential. And suddenly, in their absence, my emotions gave way to a flood of tears. I cried for the loss of my biggest fans, the ones who would attend my third grade Flag Day play, and cheer as their granddaughter stood on stage for an hour as the American flag, a wholly inanimate object.
I cried for the loss of my best friends, who every Friday afternoon would set aside time to talk to me before Shabbat and remind me that no matter how daunting the future appeared, they had faith in my ability to look fear in the eyes and laugh.
And I cried for the loss of two courageous women, who watched as the opportunities provided to them expanded exponentially for their daughters and granddaughters. Despite their sometimes confusion, they cheered from the sidelines as the women they raised began to shatter the glass ceilings they never knew could be broken.
Therefore, on the eve of my second funeral this year, I’m taking a new approach and embracing the Sam Smith response to loss:
You told me not to cry when you were gone
But the feeling’s overwhelming, they’re much too strong
Can I lay by your side, next to you, you
And make sure you’re alright
I’ll take care of you,
And I don’t want to be here if I can’t be with you tonight