Ultralight Beam

My grandmother died at the end of August. I remember it like it was yesterday, and I always will. She was hospitalized prior to my departure to the Dominican Republic, but she was verbal and acting like her usual sassy self despite dealing with several health ailments simultaneously. When I returned to NJ, my first stop was her room in hospice care; she was transferred there while I was away. Her face was swollen and deformed, and her body had shrunk even more since I last saw her. She was slumped over in bed, breathing heavily, as if each inhale and exhale was a frail attempt at more life.

It was after 2 a.m. when I received the call that she had passed. I knew what the call was for when my phone rang. I collapsed to the floor and sobbed so hard I started to heave. My world came crashing down once more.

I left NYC and immediately got into my car upon arriving at my house. I decided to view her body before the coroner came. I don’t know why I chose to do something like that… I guess I felt like it was the right thing to do. I listened to “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West on repeat until I got to the hospital. It was the only song I wanted to hear.

When I returned to her bedside, my grandmother was sort of a yellow-ish color that eventually turned to blue. She went from warm and soft to cold and hard. I couldn’t stop crying, but I was happy to see that she looked like she was sleeping. I played gospel music as me and a couple of relatives took turns holding her hands and kissing her forehead. I wanted her to wake up.

After saying my goodbyes, I got into my car and put “Ultralight Beam” back on. When I walked through the front door, automatically everything felt different. When I went upstairs to change, I made it a point to avoid eye contact with my grandmother’s door, that was thankfully closed. Our bedrooms are next to each other. I slept downstairs on the couch that night.

When we buried my grandmother after Labor Day, I stood at her graveside trembling. My mother had to usher me back to the car. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to lay beside that rectangular opening in the ground. I wanted to be close to her again.

I knew my grandmother was going to die in a matter of days, the day that she was hospitalized. God was ready, and so was she. But that didn’t cushion the blow. Her illnesses came out of nowhere, and a couple of weeks later, she was gone. The hour glass was flipped the moment the ambulance picked her up from our home, and her time eventually ran out.

Today, as I reflected on her death and other losses, I realized that essentially every single tragedy in my life has come without a warning sign or an introduction. They come rapidly and relentlessly, one right after the other. They feel like tidal waves swallowing me up on the shore. The aftermath is me laying on the sand, nearly lifeless, gasping for air. I find a way to get back up, but it isn’t long before another wave takes me under.

A few days ago I spoke to my cousin about all that was burdening me, our grandmother’s death included. She said that some people have boring, smooth-sailing lives, but we just aren’t those people. She accepted that her life will always be chaotic…

I guess I should do the same for me.


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