Friday, November 27, 2015


The other day I was in Costco and I saw this gigantic box of After Eight chocolates and I thought to myself "I should buy those for Amma for Christmas..." and then I remembered that she's gone.

I felt like someone punched me in the gut, knocking the wind right out of me. I had this burning pain in the pit of my stomach that I'd only ever felt a few times before in my life-- The same feeling I got when my mom called and told me that Amma had died a week earlier.

I know she's in a better place regardless of if there's a heaven or not. Her dementia got so bad near the end that anywhere else would be a better place than in her fraying mind and aging body. But still, my heart hurts knowing that she is gone forever.

Dementia stole so much from my grandma, but sometimes there would be a flicker of the old Amma that would emerge. Every now and again it seemed like she would steal a moment back from the brain altering disorder, and even just for a minute she was there.

And now, there are no more of those minutes. No more of the bad ones either. All that is left are my memories. I'm grateful for those, but they'll never be enough and I am scared they too will start to fade. I am scared that I will forget what she smelled like, or the sound of her voice. I am scared I will forget how her hands felt like old, soft tissue paper, or that I will forget the way she used to say "mmm-hmmm and uh-huh" with a smile when we'd tell her a story.

I feel like I lost her twice; once to dementia and once to death. Although she was old, and she lived a very long and good life, that kind of logic doesn't seem to soothe my heartache. Only time will.

I suppose, standing there in the holiday chocolate isle at Costco, I was still getting used to the fact that Amma is gone. Everything was normal until that second when I realized the new normal is that I will never buy her another giant box of chocolates for Christmas. I will never go visit her at the nursing home, I will never hug her or kiss her, and I will never see her again.

Grief is such a strange thing. When it washes over you it can make you feel a million different emotions all at once. It's such a personal experience; different for everyone, yet the same in that you are mourning and dealing with a loss.

I already know that time is the only thing that can mend a broken heart. I know that my sadness will never be completely gone, but in time my heart will begin to heal and when I think of Amma, or when I see a giant box of chocolates that I know she would have liked for Christmas, it will fill me with happiness and warmth.

Right now it's hard, but I am grateful for all the time we spent together when she was alive and all the memories we made.

I miss you Amma.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Goodbye Amma.

My grandma died yesterday.

She was old, her body was frail and broken and her mind was fading. She lived a long and mostly healthy life, it was her time. Even though I know all of this, my heart is still broken.

I miss her.

I take comfort in that she believed in the promise of a heaven and an afterlife, where I can only imagine her being reunited with her beloved husband George (who died 55 years ago, and who she still loved with every fibre of her being) and her sisters and brothers. I am happy that she is free from her dementia, which wreaked havoc on her mind and emotions, leaving her a lost and confused shell of her former self. I am grateful that I got to hold her hand and say goodbye.

We shared a special bond, Amma and I. She was my dramatic, high-strung and hypersensitive kindred spirit. Memories of her are sprinkled throughout my whole life. I am so grateful for those.

Amma was the type of grandma who showed up to every school concert, awards ceremony, assembly, sporting event, function, presentation... Sometimes she'd be the only one, but if there was a seat for her to sit in she was sitting in it, waving excitedly and documenting our five seconds of glory with blurry group pictures that she'd develop and circle the tiny speck that we were in the group.

She was so proud of all her kids and grandkids.

She'd clip and save any mention of us in a newspaper or a newsletter, and she'd save those clippings in a box she made especially for that purpose. She'd gladly read school papers and assignments with enthusiasm, and she'd wear or somehow display any type of craft you gave her. When we were kids you would have been hard pressed not to see Amma wearing some hideous handcrafted broach or necklace that was made of plastic or from glitter and tiny pompoms.

In her head and her heart she thought her grandchildren were a thousand times better than we actually were. She bragged and exaggerated our accomplishments to anybody who would listen-- to her friends, to our friends, to doctors, cashiers, strangers she met in an elevator...

My whole life I've known this day would come. Partly because my grandma was always old and partly because when we got older she would follow us around her apartment with masking tape and a pen saying "Put your name on the things you want when I die."

I suppose you could call her a planner. She said she didn't want anybody fighting over her stuff after she died, so she opted for this "calling dibs" method instead.

Amma was an artist, a sculptor, a proud Icelander. She had refined taste and never left her apartment without lipstick. She always looked perfect and polished. She loved shopping at the Bay-- because that was were she landed her first job in the 1930s the hosiery department. She loved good food, especially desserts, and she was always up for a phone call or a visit.

Amma was a real special lady.

It's the strangest feeling, when someone has been a part of your forever and then they're not anymore.

My grandma's dementia had advanced a great deal in recent years. Life had become really hard. Last week she fell and broke her hip. She had surgery, but she was so frail and it was her time. Thanks to the doctors and nurses at the Seven Oaks Hospital, she passed away in comfort, without pain last night.

Amma, I love you so much. I am so grateful for you and all the wonderful times we had. I'm so thankful that you and Riel got to meet each other. I will tell her stories about you, and us, and about all of our shenanigans. You are in my heart forever.