When I close my eyes, I can see her smile – that same old familiar smile. I’m walking on the icy streets of New York, but I can still see her smile. I don’t remember where I’m going and the purpose, but I remember her waiting for me at the door of my home. “Have you had a good trip? Lunch is ready.
I made that pork you like and there are beans also.” The embrace was long and warm. Even if I had to bend over to embrace her small body, her embrace was immense. We would go into the house and the smell of fresh food, home and love surrounded us. I could feel the taste of love in each bite, while she watched us with attentive and affectionate eyes. She was pleased to serve her loved ones.
I feel the sun on my face and decide to sit and enjoy its warmth on my skin. I remember our beach house and sitting on the porch in the morning where the sunbeams were not too intense yet. The cake is ready and the milk is hot. “Come before it gets cold,” she insisted, so that I would not delay. Her presence was like those sunbeams; it warmed my soul and my heart. I miss her and tears trickle down my cheeks, but I don’t feel pain. I had already said goodbye.
My sister called months ago to say that she was in the hospital. I remember the anguish upon hearing the news about her health. My sister gave me the Doctors’ reports daily. The distance was cruel. I prayed that I would be able to say goodbye. “Grandma, I’m here! You have my love!” She smiled, but no longer could answer me. Only a few days of silent goodbyes. Discrete tears and great care. I needed to be there. Suddenly, she cried, “Daughter I can’t stand it! I want to die!” I turned my face to hide the tears and turning to her I said, “I’m going to ask God to do what’s best for you!” She closed her eyes and seemed to sleep again. She spent most of the visiting hours sleeping as if she could only relax in our presence.
I returned home with a feeling of relief; relief that our prayers had been answered. The house is even more empty and silent, but I feel an overwhelming sensation of peace. “Grandma, I’m afraid, can you pray for me?” “Don’t be afraid my dear. Let’s pray to your guardian angel for you to sleep better!” I believe she had a powerful connection with God. She protected me from my own ghosts. She was my home,
When my uncle called informing us of her death, the world seemed to have gone into slow motion. We went to her house, we chose her clothes and her shoes. We couldn’t cremate her barefoot! I chose the white sweater set and navy blue pants she liked. We dressed her body already cold and pale, and all I could think about was how much I had embraced and loved that body, that woman. I painted her nails, brushed her hair and put on her shoes. How many times had I put on her shoes. How much intimacy had we shared in those moments of tender care. We prepared a wall of photos for her funeral so that everyone would remember her presence and dedication. I chose each picture and relived every moment in my mind. We cried together. We said goodbye. But she didn’t die. Inside me, she is still more than sunbeams— she is the sun herself.
Andréia Aragao is from Brazil. She is currently studying at Fordham University’s Institute of American Language & Culture (IALC) at Lincoln Center.