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Over the summer, I was shopping at the mall with my friend Leah. We went into one store called The Afternoon that had many eclectic trinkets, knickknacks, and books. Both of us were drawn to one book called All About Me. It was one of those books you fill out with information about yourself. We had giggled at some of the questions in it and we were debating whether or not we should buy a copy. Leah ended up deciding not to get it, but I stepped up to the plate and purchased it.
Once I was home, I immediately began filling the book with every detail of my life. I went through the general section, and then the family, friends, and goals sections. At that point, the book was filled up about halfway through when I finally reached the section about memories. I almost thought about stopping, since I had already spent a couple hours filling the book out. I decided against it though, and turned the page to the memories section, not knowing what was coming.
I was about fourteen years old. I was in South Dakota visiting Granny and Papa Bear, my grandma and grandpa. I always remembered the extensive collection of cherished teddy bears that Granny had. Most of the bears were in a large glass cabinet, but the special ones were scattered throughout my grandparents’ apartment. One bear in particular, was Susie. I had always liked Susie, and on this day up in the cold and windy South Dakota, Granny gave her to me. Susie was small, tan, and had a big head with beady little eyes, a copper colored nose, and small ears. Granny told me to take good care of her, and I made sure that I did, but I didn’t really think about how much that little bear would soon mean to me.
December 6, 2004 will be a day I always remember. My dad had received a phone call from Papa Bear, as we do every couple weeks. Although this time, it wasn’t a pleasant, casual talk. Papa Bear had called to tell us that Granny had cancer; and that wasn’t even the worst part. What was worse was that the doctor had predicted that she only had about six months to a year left to live. I could tell that my dad was holding back tears. The news shocked me. So much so, that I felt numb. I didn’t even want to think about what would happen if she did die. Besides, I was a stubborn fourteen-year-old and I just didn’t want to accept that something like this could happen.
My Dad traveled up to South Dakota alone to visit my grandparents, but before he left, I made sure that Susie went with him. I knew it would make Granny happy to see her. While my dad was gone, I tried to remember some of the good times I had shared with Granny. It was hard and I couldn’t think of anything, and was really disappointed in myself. I wanted to be able to remember everything about her-the way she looked and smelled, and even her funny quirks-just in case I did lose her. A few days later when Dad and Susie returned home, I still hadn’t been able to remember much of anything; my whole life suddenly seemed a bit darker.
About a week after Valentine’s Day, Papa Bear called to tell us that Granny wasn’t doing very well. My dad and I drove up to South Dakota to visit her in the hospital. I was told by my dad not to cry in the hospital room, and I knew after he told me that, that this wasn’t going to be a fun family visit. I walked in, and just seeing her was incredibly difficult. My Granny’s head was practically bald. She was thinner than I had ever seen and she just looked so weak. My Granny was never a weak woman though; she always knew what she wanted and she always worked diligently to achieve her goals. When my dad looked at Granny himself, his face suddenly seemed much sadder than before. My grandpa’s face was dark and sullen from all the time and energy that he had been using.
Throughout the day, we simply spent time in Granny’s sterile hospital room, talking amongst ourselves. She couldn’t really speak though; however, she couldn’t cough, or drink, or even eat for that matter, but she could at least nod and point. The whole time we were with her, I was straining to hold back tears. It was just so horrible to see her suffer right in front of me as I continued to live and breathe so easily; it just didn’t seem fair to an incredible woman like her.
As we were getting ready to leave, we all gave Granny hugs. She hugged my dad and kissed him on the cheek. Then Papa Bear walked to the side of her bed and gave her a gentle kiss. As I went to hug her, she whispered in my ear, “I love you.” In comparison to many of the things Granny had struggled to try and say that day, that tiny little phrase came out crystal clear. I walked out of her hospital with a single tear running down my face. I quickly wiped it away. I had to stay strong for my dad.
I turned the page to the memories section and answered a few of the questions. That’s when I came across this question: “What is one of the most tragic things that you have experienced?” I thought about it for a little while, and then I remembered the visit to the hospital to see Granny. I couldn’t help but cry then. I had suddenly felt a stab of pain just hit me. At that moment, I finally realized all that I had lost with the death of Granny.
It was March 16, 2005, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. This was also the day that Granny died. Her death had not hit me yet, because I didn’t cry at all that day. In fact, I couldn’t cry. That night though, as we sat in Papa Bear’s apartment, my dad and aunt just kept talking about memories that they had of Granny. I wished that I could have had the same memories that they did. I felt incredibly foolish for not having remembered anything.
Today, I make sure that I always have a camera with me. I take pictures of just about anything worth remembering. Susie also sits on my bed every night, and I always make sure that she is with me when I travel somewhere. In fact, Susie has become a direct representation of Granny for me. Her spirit will always remain within that little bear.
Losing Granny was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever had to experience. What makes it harder is that I lost a lot of possible memories with her. What’s even worse though is that I still can’t remember many things about what I did with her before she was sick. I have now learned that I should make every moment count, and that I shouldn’t let go of those memories, because I never know when I’ll want to look back.