Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Her Story: I Didn’t Realize How Much My Grandmother Impacted My Life Until She Was Gone

I will never forget January 30th. That afternoon, I found out my grandmother passed away at the age of 82. She had suffered from dementia for years, but it was still shocking and upsetting. I excused myself from work for the rest of the day as I waited for my sister to come pick me up and take me home.  All I could think about while I waited was that the last time I had seen my grandmother was before I left for college, and I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her as herself. I felt horrible for not seeing her or talking to her before it was too late. I had taken advantage of the time I thought I had.

Dementia is defined as a chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning. I can’t remember when I first noticed it in my grandmother, but it only grew worse and worse over the years. I started to feel like I didn’t know her anymore, and we grew apart. She had said something one of the last times before she was taken to a home that had left me upset and it’s only now that I truly realize it was the dementia talking, not her.

Now, I’m not one for funerals. The last funeral I had been to before this was my cousin’s seven years ago. Unless it concerned immediate family, I avoided funerals like the plague. And another part to this story is that my mother and her brothers weren’t really on the best of terms. My mother was effectively left to take care of my grandmother by herself, and she had to be really strong to do that. Our family hadn’t really talked to anyone else on that side of the family for years now, so this funeral was going to be a reunion, possibly not of the happy sort.

It wasn’t until we started preparing things for the funeral that I remembered how close I was with my grandmother. We pulled out pictures, looked at old birthday cards, and even saw some home videos played at the funeral.

I remembered the countless nights spent overnight at her house, and how no matter how old or tired she was, we always pulled out mattresses and slept on the floor. I always got to take a bubble bath in the Jacuzzi tub, and even draw on the walls with the bubbles, despite the fact that it was damaging the walls. She would always go get me Burger King when I stayed over, because it was tradition, along with Cheerios and Oreos with milk. She always climbed the narrow stairs to go to the game room and would play every single game with me, sometimes even multiple times. I think the best memories at her house were at Christmas. I loved all the decorations and the tree, and all of our family piled together in her small dining room, back before things changed, when things were still good.

I also remembered her cabin up at Lake Erie that we sold back in 2012, and all the friends and memories I had made there. I had been going up there since I was born, and made friends that, although I lost touch with, changed me for the better. When we would leave to drive there, she would always tell me we were “off like a herd of turtles” and would always beat my parents’ car there. She was like an extra grandmother to some of the kids up at the lake, and I can’t help but feel sad for them, knowing how close some of them were to her. They were some of my best friends growing up, and I can’t help but thank her for paving my road to those friendships. We used to be able to hear trains going past at night while in the cabin, and even now when I hear trains, I think of Lake Erie and of her. 

She’s gone and that hurts so much, but I’ve been trying to be strong for everyone around me. Something I had always done was to laugh and try and be happy rather than cry in front of people, and I think that’s something I get from her. I can’t remember ever seeing her cry, and she was always kind, trying to make other people smile and laugh, just like I do now. She was the most beautiful, gentle, caring, smart woman I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She was there for everything, and I think I took her presence for granted because I thought I would have so much time with her.  I’m so thankful to have had her in my life, and if I could go back and change the last six months I wasted not going to visit her, I would. Sometimes I think it’s not fair that she’s gone, that I didn’t say goodbye. But then I know that she’s in a better place. She is finally with her true love, without whom she had been living for 25 years.

I love you so much, Memmaw. Rest in peace.

Photo Credit: Author’s own.

Madison is a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh and is majoring in Psychology. She enjoys drawing, music, pugs, and fro-yo.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️