Dear Nan,

I’ve been thinking about you a lot the last couple of days. And tonight, for whatever reason, memories came back to me of how you were in the last few years of your life. It felt painfully fresh tonight, memories of visiting your bedside and holding your hand.

Visiting your house never felt the same once you got sick, despite the loving best efforts of everyone. I always knew I wanted to go into your room and visit you, but I didn’t know how. It didn’t feel the same. But in my heart I knew you were still my nan, still the same person I would take for Sunday drives, the same person who’s white hair I would comb for what felt like hours, just to make you feel loved.

Sitting next to you on a chair, holding your hand and making conversation was hard in the last little while. It forced me into places I wasn’t sure my heart could handle. But I did it anyway, because I knew that laying before me, deep inside, was the same woman in the photo on the nightstand, with a hand on my shoulder smiling for the camera. “Nan’s girl.”

It’s been hard not hearing your “I love you.” We don’t talk about it. We did for a while, but it’s hard. Even now years later you’re the person I want to talk to about where my life is going. I imagine telling you about all the things I learned in college and how I’m doing them every day at work. I imagine the change in your voice, when you’d get excited about the things I’ve done.

Having raised 12 children, I know you’d have an opinion about where I am in my personal life, but unlike others, when it comes to me you would have kept it to yourself. We always shared that understanding, you and I. But being me, I would have asked you for it anyways. I know you’d tell me to do what makes me happy. And nan, I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.

Life isn’t perfect. I have days where I feel so full of anxiety I could burst at the seams. But thinking about you makes me feel calmer, because I know you did not have an easy life, yet you managed to hold everything together for yourself and those around you. We always had that special bond, and I still feel it now even though you’re not here.

I stopped believing in God when I was 12 or 13 years old. In times of need, when things get more than I can handle, I am lucky enough to be able to call upon my parents. And since you’ve been gone, I find myself praying to you. I know you can hear me.

Mandy Joy

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