Stand up to cancer

This year was full of surprises, good ones and not so good ones. It was a challenging year and they say, that’s the only way you can grow, sometimes I wonder what ‘they’ were thinking, when they started those rumors…

Last Thursday we flew to Vienna to pay our respects to my late grandma. She died on December 4th (A’s birthday) evening. My grandpa was with her, he was holding her hand, kissing her cheeks, telling her everything would be alright, when she left him. She fought 3 years against it but the cancer got the better of her. I know that most likely she caused her suffering herself (giving the 30-some years she had been smoking) but still, it is hard to understand. Hard to accept.

She started smoking when she was about 20. She was planning on being a stay-at-home mom but life didn’t have that in the cards for her. With no husband to support her, 3 children at home, she needed to work. Luckily she found a job right across the street but there was no such thing like a kindergarden for her kids, so they were home alone, which hurt my grandma the most. Knowing she can’t be there for them all the time. So one day someone offered her a cigarette and she smoked it. Afterwards she got really sick and her boss told her to go home thus began the vicious cycle. She went home to take care of her kids, for her smoking a cigarette and getting uber sick, gave her the chance to do, what she wanted to do but of course that only lasted so long. At one point you don’t get sick anymore, you actually enjoy smoking a cigarette and then? Nothing left then…

My grandma died in a hospital room. She died too young, in a subjective way – of course. She died in pain and so did we – too. My family and me.

We left early Friday morning for the funeral. Everyone trapped in their own thoughts, not being able to really say what we want to say, so we stayed quiet. Approaching the graveyard my heart sank. I was greeted by tears and in return I had nothing but tears. My family stood and said their goodbyes – again – before the ceremony. The priest came, he said some nice words, we slowly moved towards the big pile of dirt and then slowly my grandma was let down. I began to wonder if she did let us down? I wondered why she had to go, I wondered why she broke all the promises she made to me, I wondered why she wasn’t there to comfort us anymore. I wondered how we all are going to be able to move on. I wondered and wondered and found nothing but a deep silence in me. I watched my family, as they silently (or not so silently) tossed some dirt upon her casket, hugged my grandpa, wished him all the best and left. I watched as my uncles and aunts started crying, holding on to their significant other, hoping for support, I watched my cousins, as they too had to say goodbye to their grandma.

Shortly after my grandpa left, he said he wanted to be alone at home, he said, there were still some things he had to take care of. He said to call him tomorrow.

The last person who left the graveyard was my brother. My brother is 25 years old, recently became a dad himself, just started to enjoy the joys of fatherhood and recently lost the most dearly person in his entire life. See, my grandma to him was not only a grandma, she was his best friend. The two of them had a very special bond, a tight bond. They would do everything together. He would always stop by at hers after work, making sure she was fine, he would run errands for her, he did anything for her and so did she.

So when I watched my brother, I saw a little kid, losing his guidance. I saw his pain, I felt his loneliness and I knew that no matter what I’d say or do, his best friend was gone. So I stood next to him in silence for a bit and then he started laughing. He looked at my grandma’s casket and said, ‘Do you remember…?’ I tilted my head and looked at him in suspicion and then I too started laughing. Yes, I do remember, we had some good times at my grandma’s. Easter egg hunting, Christmas, birthdays, after work coffees, countless dinners, breakfasts, morning coffees (all types of coffees for that matter) and those are the times I remember, the times I will not forget, the times I will tell my kids about – someday.

In her memory, I donated a star to my true superhero, who is greatly missed and very loved. In Shakespeare’s words (some changes included):

And when she shall die, take her and cut her up in little stars, and she will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will fall in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.

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