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College is an exciting time in our young lives. We’re trying new things, meeting different people, and exploring what the world has to offer. We’re looking to a future filled with success, love and happiness. We’re blinded by the bright hope of a full life. It isn’t until later that we learn about life, and what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. This semester, life hit me and my family hard. Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers passed away in September, two weeks apart from each other. Both were very different experiences for me and my family, but nonetheless it felt like I was hit by a truck.

In August, my family learned that my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. It was estimated that she only had a few weeks to a month left. We rushed to North Carolina the moment we could to see her. We got to spend a week with her before she passed. Seeing her in the hospital was not the experience I thought it would be. My relatives kept telling me that she didn’t look like herself, but when I walked into the room, it was definitely Grandma Fran. Although she was groggy and napped a lot, she still had her spunk and positive energy. She kept up with our conversations, commented on what we talked about, and made plenty of jokes. Her spirits were high, and that made it a lot easier to say goodbye. She wasn’t in any pain, and that was the most important thing to us. I think she also knew what was happening to her, so not only did we have time to say goodbye to us, but she had time to make peace and prepare herself for the next part of her journey. As our time in North Carolina was coming to an end, she said her goodbye to each one of us in a special way. I don’t know what she said to the rest of my family, and I didn’t ask. The last thing she said to me was “I love you. Take care of your parents.”

I started my first semester of senior year a week after we came home. The first week into the semester, my dad called me and told me she passed. My heart broke, but I was comforted by the fact that I got to see her, say goodbye, knew she wasn’t in any pain and she got to see her family before she passed on.

I went on with my life, thinking about her everyday, knowing that she was with me somehow. I felt blessed that I had 21 years with her, and that I would have many more with my other grandmother.

Like I said, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

Two weeks from the time Grandma Fran passed, I got another phone call from my parents. My Nonna was in the hospital, she had a procedure and things had taken a turn for the worst. It felt like there was a vacuum sucking the air out of the room. I couldn’t breathe. The next day, my dad took a flight from Chicago to Cleveland to get me. We went straight to the hospital. I thought that this would be similar to what I had experienced in August. However, I was very, very wrong.

When I walked into the room, I could not recognize the woman laying in the bed in front of me. My mom explained that she had a clot in an artery leading to her colon. They tried to remove it, but smaller arteries started to clot. There was nothing they could do. Her organs were failing her, and she was in tremendous pain. By the time I got there, though, she was so medicated that she was in a vegetated state. She couldn’t see anything and I wasn’t convinced that she could hear me, even though the nurses told me she could. She was moved into hospice and within a few short hours she was gone.

I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye the way I had wanted to. My heart was shattered because both of my grandmothers, my favorite ladies, my friends were gone.

I was home every other week for funerals and services. I’ve been on a plane this semester than any semester before. When I’m home, I miss what’s happening at school, and when I’m at school I feel all alone. I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking about death, and how I really wasn’t sure what happens to us when we walk into the light. It ate away at me for weeks, but I come back to two mantras. While this experience was difficult and painful, it’s a part of life, and life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

 

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