My grandmother, Carolyn, amazes me, even beyond the grave. The conversations and the connection we shared remain special to me as we established a special bond.
Growing up with grandma, we walked everywhere. Our long walks I hold onto like crates of precious treasures. Grandma couldn’t drive, and of course, neither did I. Every day we walked, blocks and blocks to and from school. Our Saturday routine consisted of walking even farther to the mall and stopping at the library on the way home.
She knew and appreciated my love for reading. I enjoyed our time spent walking, but as a kid, the routine became arduous and redundant. I was always anxious to get home and read my book or watch my shows. Sometimes, I secretly wished one of her friends would pass by and offer us a ride. The walks were hard to endure because of the New Orleans weather–the humid and scorching summers. The conversations during this journey transitioned with the changing of my age. We went from chatting about episodes of The Golden Girls to dealing with bullies and boys.
The pace of our stride with one another soon changed. We could no longer complete a full walk without her growing breathless. Years later, she suffered a stroke and developed heart issues. We no longer passed the library. I eventually moved away to attend a different high school in 2000. I moved to Tennessee for college in 2005. Despite the distance, my grandmother and I stayed connected through daily phone calls. Some of our conversations centered on the topics of the newest self-help books I had purchased and what she was reading too.
College was tough, being on my own was tough, and homesickness was real. In 2012, my grandmother was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. It is like time fast-forwarded quickly, skipping all the other levels, and we quickly there, at the end. It was tough to hear on the phone the side effects of the chemo and radiation treatments. It was bittersweet, but I made the decision in 2013 to move back to New Orleans. When I visited her, I would see her books in a basket piled up, collecting dust in a corner. I never saw her read any of them again. She even dared me not to touch them or take any.
The beginning of 2015 came like a wrecking ball.
I was going through depression when it all started to accelerate, something I didn’t even go through when we were coping with Hurricane Katrina. My grandmother didn’t know about my mental health because she was undergoing surgery for cancer, so I dealt with it silently.
In June 2015, the treatments stopped working, and MRSA took over her body. The doctors released her under hospice care. I’d heard of it before, but mentally refused to associate it with my grandma. The hospice nurse handed me a thick manual to read on what to expect. It was the one and only book I refused to read. Soon, my two-year-old and I moved in with my grandma to better take care of her. Months and months went by, and I eventually had to read the book. She had taken a turn for the worse. In my mind, she was going to survive this, and we were going to be chilling in our pajamas watching The Golden Girls for many years to come.
By October 2015, all hope was gone for our Pajama Jam because she was gone. The entire week I could not eat, I could not think, I slept all day, and wasn’t motivated to do anything. Until I saw those books in the corner. One by one, I sorted through the titles on comfort, trusting, believing, and faith, every topic I was experiencing. My eyes began to fill with tears. The feeling of grief transitioned into that of hope and amazement. I could only feel that this was intentional. I was strong while I witnessed my favorite person lowered into the earth.
I appreciate her so much and showed it to her while she was here. I have no regrets and cherish sweet memories. I have my collection of books, life lessons, and the encouragement she passed on to me. Soon after she passed on, I opened one of the books to a random page. The last sentence read, “In time, we will meet them again.” Until then, I have my most treasured possessions with me in my collection.
Jessica Duronslet is a mommy of three and is currently in graduate school for Marketing.