“Hi honey, have you heard the news?” my Uncle’s perpetually calm voice queried. It was 9am, I had just woken up and began pulling on my clothes to go to work. It was too early…
“What news?” I could hear the sharp anxiety in my response – bad news was coming.
“Well Gram,” he began and between that second and the next I foolishly thought she was back in the hospital for her hip, but he finished the sentence, “passed away this morning.”
“WHAT?!” I screeched down the line. “No, no, that’s not right.” My whole world broke apart in that moment, blown away by the gust of air I belted out. It wasn’t until I felt my husband’s hands on my shoulders that I realized that I had crumpled to the ground and was screaming like some wild cat.
My grandmother was my second mom; she had me every weekend, school break, summer vacation and holiday since I was 2 weeks old. I even lived with her full time for four years. She was a Titan in my eyes – there was nothing that she couldn’t do or overcome. Her dying was…is… the impossible. It cannot happen.. it’s not allowable. It’s a lie. But this is what life is… and I feel so lost. I catch myself reaching for my phone to call her and talk about this – as was my habit for the last 36 years – but, I realize the foolish impossibility of this… and I feel even more alone, feel the loss even deeper.
My grandmother never really understood why I went, and continue to go to Palestine. Why return again and again when I come back with so much trauma. I even remember her asking me why I took part in protests.
“Then what, Leia? You all go home and nothing’s changed.” I would always laugh and roll my eyes… never really understanding the deeper truth she was trying to impart. She didn’t have the language to convey what she meant, but ask I spoke with countless people at her funeral on Thursday, I began to understand.
Everyone I spoke with told of how wonderful she was, how beloved she was – but there was always an accompanying story with that; buying her friend’s newborn their first baby shoes, coming to visit people in the hospital, calling people to check up on them if they were sick or hurt or upset, hours on the phone giving advice and support to friends, relatives, people she knew in passing, old students that rode her school bus who told me that she would give them hats, scarves and gloves because they didn’t have any and their family was too poor to buy them.
Those stories helped me understand what she meant… a protest does nothing, LOVE does everything. Love urges us to do, to make right and repair the things we see as wrong in the world. Love urges us to care for and comfort people, to be present with them totally in every moment we share with them. Love is the millions of tiny little acts that cost us precious little, but the impact is so great.
Her life was one constant out pouring of love to those around her – even when she called you a pain in the ass, or told you not to be a scab, or cheated you during a game of Canasta, or said that the lipstick your were wearing looked like a baboon’s asshole. Whatever it was, she loved you with everything she had… and now I understand how right she was. Love is the cure-all.