(This is the last photo I have with my grandmother. I saw her when I was 18 again, but we never had any photos taken of us together.)
It’s been five years since your death, March marking off another anniversary.
Although it feels like yesterday where we were having our (last) sleepover. You were telling me (scolding really) that I’ve become to skinny, as you lit one of your cheap cigarettes with a smile. That smile of warmth.
In my mind, I play out the conversation we could be having right now, if we had to meet.
I’m sitting across from you, handing you a lit cigarette. Then I light one for me.
Me: “Hi Gran, haven’t seen you in a while, you’re looking as good as always”
Gran: (chuckles) “Come on, time hasn’t been on my side with aging. I see you are still smoking, how many times have I told you it’s bad for your health?”
Me: “Says the one who accepts a cigarette with a smile!”
There’s silence as we inhale second hand smoke & stare out into the distance.
Me: “I’m really sorry…”
Gran: “You don’t need to apologize; heart attacks can happen to anyone”
Me: “I know, but I never made an effort to see you more. I skipped on visits so much.”
Gran: ” And I understand why; you had to work. There’s no apology needed.”
I shrug & take a long drag, the acidic taste burning my throat.
Me: “I lied to you that day.”
Gran: “Did you now? (Smiles) I figured that out on my own. So how did it make you feel?”
Me: “Not so bad in the moment. But when I got the phone call… I wished I had gone to see you. I could have helped you.”
Gran:”No one could have helped. If it was my time, then it was meant to happen.”
Me: “I could have…”
You smile at me, sympathetically, & I hate myself even more, I don’t deserve your patience & understanding.
Gran: “You haven’t forgiven yourself.”
Me: “No, I don’t deserve the mercy of forgiveness.”
I stand up & throw my dead cigarette to the ground, trampling it with my foot.
You stand up as well, & join me at my side. With your hands placed gently (but firmly) on shoulders, you stare directly into my eyes. You’re smiling again.
Gran: “Child, you need to let go. I’ve forgiven you. You need forgive yourself.”
Me: “Are you sure?”
Gran: “Yes, be free. You’re still young, don’t let the past hold you back.”
With those words, you pass me one of cheap cigarettes, light it & light one for yourself. With it dangling from your mouth, you pull me into an embrace. I feel so much weight lifting from my heart; I can breathe again.
You turn & start walking away into a light patch.
Before you completely disappear from my view, I hear you mutter something.
I chuckle & repeat your words to myself.
“And throw that cigarette away. How many times have I told you it’s bad for your health?”
I love you always, Gran!