Friday, May 18, 2012

Letter to my Grandmother who Left Us Today

Dearest Nanny,

How can you be gone from this world? I haven't seen you in a year, but I feel your absence around me like a gaping whole in the universe. You were so much. You embodied strength, endurance, wit, humor, and character. You taught me to think for myself, and to believe in myself.

Nanny, remember when we picked strawberries and tomatoes in your garden in the backyard of your old house? Remember how you taught me to snap fresh green beans on the back porch? Remember when you made clear to me that cereal was not meant to be dumped in the sink because not all sinks had garbage disposals? I was so embarrassed about that.

I remember when you played with Barbie dolls with me, and when we pretended we were the Barbies ourselves, and we were royalty, "up there", as you'd say, and would order people to be our servants. You had such a good sense of childlike humor and you knew how to let your guard down to have fun with a grandchild. As your oldest grandchild, I got to take advantage of your youth when I was little, and see your playful side that the later ones maybe didn't glimpse as much.

I remember when we kids would run around your house yelling, "Freak out, Nanny, freak out!" to terrorize you. You would eventually succumb to our wishes and hollar at us, "Bap, Bap, BAP! Babboo, babboo, BABOO!! STOP IT YOU DAMN KIDS!" and we would laugh while the adults got nervous.

You taught me so much. I remember your words of wisdom, your encouragement for me to believe in myself. Your words of kindness that came through despite your tough exterior.

Nanny, when I was psychotic the first time, it was only you who told me to see a psychiatrist. What did you know that I did not know yet? I know you had seen psychiatrists yourself, and I know you suffered from  a lifelong battle with depression. What secret pain did you hold inside you all those years, never to be talked about because of the stigma of mental illness that enshrouded you? Nanny, I understood all that time you spent lying in bed. I understood too, your physical illnesses that were maybe never taken as seriously as they should have been because you didn't question any doctors, and you were a woman with diabetes and hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism, which are common problems for women which commonly don't get taken seriously by male doctors.

Nanny, it was hard to keep in touch in recent years. You never understood why I had behaved the way I did when I was sick, because no one explained it to you (or to anyone). I wrote letters to try to explain, but I never knew if you got them and read them and understood. I wished you could hear well enough to talk on the phone, and I wished I had more money to come visit you more often than I did. I only saw you about three times in the past thirteen years, because of financial issues, and because of the distance that had grown between me and the whole family, caused mostly by my illness. Nanny, you let me live with you for a year when I was 23 and had nowhere else to go, and I always appreciated you for that. I want to make sure you know that I never stopped being grateful for what you did for me. I wrote you letters like this when you were alive, but you never wrote back. Maybe you couldn't. Maybe you did not know what to say.

Nanny, I hope you weren't in too much pain, or suffering too much in the past few years in the assisted living facility, and then the nursing home. I hope you did not go through more than you should have had to endure. I think at the end, you had decided it was time to go, and you made the choice to leave  rather than undervgo medical interventions. I respect your choice, which you had every  right to make.

Nanny, I think you would be proud to know that I talk to people about mental illness now, and it's not the end of the world. I get the treatment I need, and it helps me. I learned from watching your life, that I had to speak up to doctors who dismissed my concerns. You and I had so much in common. I would like to think I have a smidgen of your wit, your humor, and your intelligence, even if I could hardly ever beat you at Scrabble because you had the Scrabble Dictionary memorized.

Nanny, there was a deep, dark family secret that you had been in a psychiatric hospital. Guess what? I have the same deep dark secrets, and I have many. But they're not secrets to me. I tell people about them. I'm free to not be ashamed. I have people who accept me, mental illness and all, and don't shun me for it. I wish that you had been the recipient of such understanding, empathy, and acceptance. I wish you could have written a blog about depression and found readers you could relate to.

Nanny, you had so much to be proud of. You had seven kids, 25 grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren. But, more than that, you were a strong survivor, and a woman who endured painful events like losing both of your parents in the first few years of your young life, as well as losing siblings later. Your laughter is what I will always remember best.

Nanny, I love you, and I will never forget you or let you be forgotten. I also want you to know that I harbor no hard feelings toward you for kicking me out of your house when I was psychotic and saying terrible things about my father because I was delusional. You didn't know what to do with me. It's understandable. I want you to know that I talk to my dad now, and I know what delusions are now. And I'm okay. We're all going to be okay. I choose to believe that you are peacefully resting in a comfortable, happy place, and that you know you are loved. Nanny, I miss you.


  1. Jen, I am so sorry for your loss.

    These are things you never really get over, but at least you are able to express how you felt in your letters. Hopefully, she got your letters and was just unable to write back for some reason.

    I hope you find some peace in knowing that she might have been one of the only people in your family to understand you.

    Hugs and sympathy,

  2. Oh Jen I'm so sorry for your loss. It's a beautiful letter. I wish I had words to explain how much I understand :(

  3. Dear Jen,
    I just came across your blog today. You write so well about the things that are going on with you. I want to say that I'm sorry for your loss and also as Lil said above, the letter is beautiful.
    My own Grandmother is not so well and your writing, though written from your pain, has given me some comfort. So thank you.
    Take care and I'll stop by again sometime soon.


I welcome comments from all readers and encourage you to leave them! Please do. However, due to spam, I review each comment before it can be posted, so it may take 24-48 hours before your comment appears on the blog. Please be patient. I post comments that are not spam.Note: my definition of "spam" includes ALL links to sites claiming to cure or provide "the solution" for incurable diseases such as Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia. Vulnerable people come to my blog, and I will not let them be preyed upon, but people who post snake oil remedies on the internets. Take your garbage and peddle it elsewhere. Since Blogger doesn't weed all that garbage out, I've been doing it myself for years.