How ironic that the very weekend I would be volunteering at a camp for grieving children, that I too would revert to a childlike state as a result of the sudden, unexpected death of my grandmother. During the orientation for Camp Braveheart, the facilitators simulated a healing circle for the volunteers. Those who participated in the drill were prompted to share an experience of a loved one lost. At the time, just weeks ago, I had never lost anyone of significance. Of course, I have had mere acquaintances die untimely deaths. Then most recently, there was the death of musical legend Whitney Houston which stunned the world myself included. But nothing could have prepared me for the death of my very own icon Dorothy Mae Andrews.
I am a bumbling grief stricken wreck, spoken words are too exhausting for me to utter and short breaths between heart wrenching sobs keep me alive. But I want to die along with her. I received the call the morning of March 30th as I was set to fly to see her in the hospital after a failed stent replacement surgery that ended in amputation of her leg. You never know how you will react to a tragic situation until you are face to face with it. Alone in my spacious barely furnished apartment, I felt empty. Yet there is no room for anyone to replace her. One word cannot describe the woman that I so admired and revered for she is an embodiment of many words: feisty, courageous, independent, adventurous, generous, outgoing, loving, kind, loyal, encouraging, stylish, optimistic, funny and fun, fun and more fun. Miss Dot was full of life and she truly lived a life worth living. Just a day has passed since her death but I hear her speaking to me saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “It’s gonna be okay.” I know deep within my very being that she was proud of me as she was all her children and grandchildren. But I am selfish enough to believe that I was her favorite because she was mine.
I wish that I had a chance to say goodbye, to hold her, kiss on her and tell her that I loved her beyond compare. At times, I feel that I was robbed of that opportunity, and then I sense her presence. I know she would not want me bitter, angry or laden with guilt. She would tell me in her saucy way, “Snap out of it. Tomorrow is never promised.” But if it was, Grandmother, I would hasten to your bedside, hold your hand, whisper prayers of faith and healing in your ear, then tell you how much your loved, appreciated and valued.
One of the culminating activities at Camp Braveheart is the candlelight memorial service where handwritten letters to loved ones are released into a bonfire in their memory. So in remembrance of my beloved grandmother, I set fire to the rain of tears that consume me and write these words in her honor.