The hardest part of losing someone is learning to live without them.
Four years ago, I lost my grandmother and six months later my mother-in-law passed from cancer. Two incredibly brave, strong, matriarchs gone and their absence is felt daily. It took a longtime for our family to be able to talk about them without bursting into tears.
Almost two years after losing them, my husband and I welcomed our fourth child into the world. His birth was a joyous time in our lives, especially after being in such a dark place of grief.
I remember holding my newborn son after my husband, mother and older children left and crying because in that quiet, the absence of two very important people echoed so loudly in that hospital room.
My heart ached for my son because he will live in a world where his Grandma and Nana are not in it. As tears streamed down my face, I held my son’s tiny hand and I made a promise.
“He will know you. He will know both of you.” I spoke as if they were in the room with us because I wished they were.
My Nana and my mother-in-law we’re alike in so many ways. The main thing they had in common was the love they had for my children. Nothing made them smile bigger, laugh harder and love deeper than my babies or as they referred to them, our babies. I know that they are watching over us, especially their grand-babies.
But the fact that my youngest son didn’t get to meet them broke my heart.
They are no longer with us in the physical world but they are still with us. Our loved ones never truly die as long as we have love in our hearts for them and I am making sure that my youngest knows his Nana and Grandma and how wonderful these women were.
My youngest child will know them through us.
We share our stories about them all the time. We reminisce and take walks down memory lane about our time with them. We look at photos often and have numerous pictures of them throughout our home.
We share objects that they had and cherished. Holding these items helps us all feel closer to them. The most cherished items we have is my mother-in-law’s hair brush and a Christmas ornament with my Nana’s voice. The hairbrush is in a ziplock bag and it smells like my mother-in-law. When my kids are missing their grandma, we pull out the ziploc and they smell the brush. It makes them feel like she is there. Even my youngest LOVES to smell it. It makes his face light up when he closes his eyes and takes a deep breath of the smell of that hairbrush.
The Christmas ornament with my Nana’s voice has been a God send. We have listened to it over and over. It has been one of the greatest gifts my grandmother gave to not only me so many years ago, but to my children as well.
And when I cook a meal they did, we reminisce. Like my mother-in-law’s Fritos Casserole or my Nana’s custard pie or goolash. Tasting their food brings us back to a time where they were still here with us. With every bite, even if it is just for a moment, it feels like they are still here.
Through these ways, I know my youngest child will know them. The love that he will have for them will run deep so that many, many, MANY years from now, after he has lived a long full life, they will be there with open arms at the gates of Heaven and he will know exactly who they are.
Although he won’t have any memories with them, he will have memories of them. He will know them as well as he will know his dad, his siblings, my mom, aunts, uncles and cousins. My Nana and mother-in-law will live on in our hearts and home and will always be apart of our family and our lives, even with my youngest son who never physically met them.