By Shae Koharski |

Dear Gram, 

It’s been two years since you’ve been gone. It doesn’t seem like it. It feels like whenever I’m going back home, you’ll be there in your armchair with your fleece green and leopard blanket waiting for me. Because that’s my last memory of you and it’s the memory I’ll carry with me forever. 

I’ve never mourned a loss before. While I’m a pretty emotional person, I’ve put up this front ever since you’ve been gone. I didn’t cry when you left us, I didn’t cry at the funeral and I haven’t cried since. But that doesn’t mean I miss you any less. I think I’ve been in denial. 

As with many Alzheimer’s patients, your mind left before you did. So when you passed, I know you felt at peace. It was time and I think that has a lot to do with my emotional armor. I haven’t allowed myself to mourn or quite frankly, even think about the last few years of your life. Someone would mention your name and I would smile awkwardly and quickly move on to the next thing. I’ve been coasting through. I haven’t laughed. I haven’t cried. I honestly haven’t even thought about it.  

Until recently, and I didn’t expect it. 

On my study abroad trip, we went to the Transylvania region of Romania. We stayed with host mothers in their homes. Every night, they cooked us delicious homemade dinner. The first night we were there was June 17, exactly two years since you passed. The first course was being served to us, and as soon as the plate was set down, that’s when it hit me. The plates and silverware were almost identical to the ones you had. I tried to shake it off but I couldn’t. I suppressed my emotions until the end of dinner but my wheels kept turning. 

After dinner, as we were walking back to our houses, it’s almost as if you knew. A rainbow appeared across the sky. It was a beautiful sight, but a kick in the gut and tears started to gather in my eyes. 

I laid in bed and the similarities between you and our house mothers started to come to me.  

  1. The plates and silverware were almost the same. 
  2. Every dinner by you and our house mothers were homemade.
  3. Our house mothers loved jam and in the last few years of your life you would always crave jam.
  4. Everything in their home was mismatched – from the decorations to the bedding. It reminded me of your colorful couch and the plaid and lace throw pillows.
  5. The lace curtains on every window had the exact same pattern as yours did.
  6. The house mothers themselves were nice, caring and thoughtful and were around the same age as you.
  7. For dessert the first night, they served me an apple. It’s almost as if they knew you had your famous apple pie.

And then I lost it. 

Gram, how amazing this place was. All it took was 4,242 miles, an ocean and 730 days for me to process your death. 

I felt at home in some random village in Transylvania, and I wondered why. But only you could make me feel that way. For the past two years, I felt like a part of me was missing. I felt empty and hollow, but I had to be strong. Before you, I had never really experienced a death that I can remember, so I never knew how to process it. We were so close, you helped raised me. I helped take care of you for the last two years of your life. You were home to me. No matter where I went, I always knew I could come home to you. 

Seeing that rainbow through the lace curtains made me realize no matter where you are, you can find home anywhere. 

I didn’t know anyone on this trip so I was worried I was going to feel alone. But now, I feel like you’re right here with me. You would have loved it here. 

I’m sorry for not mourning you, Gram. I’m sorry that my rough exterior has put up a barrier between us since you’ve been gone. I’m sorry that I haven’t felt home in two years. But now I know it’s okay to think about you and it’s okay if that makes me cry. I cried in front of my entire study abroad group when I told them about you. 

Thanks for making me feel at home and finally letting me know that it’s okay to move on.  

Love you forever, 

Shae