From left to right: My great grandmother, me (at three years old), and my mother.
“A death ends a life, not a relationship.” This was said by Morrie, the main character of the book ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. I can relate incredibly to this quote because I experienced the death of someone extremely close to me when I was a child. At only four and a half years old, I barely had any knowledge on what the word death meant. Yes, I did know it meant that someone would go far away for a very long time or just forever, but I hadn’t realized that I would never again be able to see or talk to that person again. Not until my great grandmother died.
As a kid, I grew up with this person always by my side, and when she passed away, my life changed drastically. My great grandmother–whom my family used to call Mima as a form of affection, although her name was Onelia–died on the twenty-seventh of April of 2007, on a Friday at 3 o’ clock in the afternoon because of Alzheimer’s disease. Before she was gone forever I recall memories of us sharing experiences of our days or something that had happened to us in the past every single day right after I came back from my daycare. I remember holding her wrinkly hands that had several sunspots and a few scars that had formed from cutting something while cooking in her early days, and softly kissing them, almost afraid that they would break since they looked so fragile. Despite their appearance, her hands were soft, mostly because she always used a lotion that gave her that peculiar smell of roses and talcum powder and a little bit of the 5th Avenue perfume that she always carried around her. I also remember always caressing her short grey hair that she would often let me brush; I can still feel its softness and delicacy in my hands until this day every time I think of her.
Regardless of her age, Mima consistently liked to maintain her looks and youth. Even though she stayed home most of the time, she liked to dress up and even put on her makeup, because she wanted to look presentable for any visitors that could come that day. She always shared interesting stories of her life with me. Like when she worked sewing clothes when she was younger or some myths and stories that she remembered from when she was little. I would always listen closely to every little thing she said and appreciated all these fascinating stories that she would tell me. About a week before her death, Mima could no longer recall any of the stories that she would spend hours sharing every time that she had with me. She also couldn’t recognize my mom or my grandma’s faces, but somehow, she could still recognize me. My mom tells me constantly that every time she saw me she would say “¿Dónde está mi niña linda?”, or “Where’s my little girl?”, yet she could not recognize almost anyone else. At the moment, I was confused as to why Mima could not remember other people’s faces, but I kind of shrugged it off and pretended that everything was fine and just like it used to be before.
The day that Mima died, I call to mind my mom interrupting my nap time and picking me up at about three thirty from my daycare- two hours earlier than usual -and driving us to the hospital. Most of the moments from that day are slightly blurry from all the years that have passed since then, but the most prominent memory I have is my whole family in the hospital crying desperately in each other’s shoulders, seeking for comfort in all the other people that seemed to be mourning over Mima’s death. It didn’t take long for my mom to join them and start sobbing in my grandma’s chest as she cried uncontrollably herself. I was the only kid there and as I looked all around me, I was immensely confused about what was occurring. It wasn’t until a few moments later that my mother gained her composure and walked towards me to explain what had happened. As she told me the events that had taken place that day in the simplest way possible she could, a million thoughts started flashing through my head: “Who will tell me all the wonderful stories Mima told me?”, “Who’s going to be on my side and defend me saying that I deserve more time watching TV when my mom tells me it’s time to go to sleep?”, “Who’s going to let me hold her hand at night when I get scared because of a nightmare I had?”, “Who’s going to tell me everything is alright when I get home crying because I scraped my knee while I was running after my friend at daycare?”. All of these thoughts overwhelmed me, and I began crying with the others while hugging my mother’s neck.
After all the years that have passed since this unfortunate event, I have come to realize that, although Mima is not next to me anymore, it doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s not with me. Her kindness and her caring nature still accompany me wherever I go and whenever I need her. Just because she’s not here physically doesn’t mean that I can’t still hear her soft voice telling me of how good of a girl I am whenever I feel like I did something wrong. The fact that her life came to an end at some point did not define the end of our beautiful relationship that still keeps growing stronger as every day passes. Her astonishing life lessons will stay with me for eternity, and her wise words will continue to resound in my ears as if she were telling them to me herself. She will stay present in my life, and every year when her death date passes, our family will keep on commemorating her and bringing her flowers, as well as lighting up candles next to her picture where she can be seen smiling like she always did. Her presence will stay forever in my mind, but especially in my heart, where I know that she always kept me.