Memoir: Never Let Go

Never Let Go

The snow lay like a blanket on our front yard, glistening in the glow of the sun.  It was Christmas Eve and even though I was a college student, I had butterflies in my stomach for what was to come.  Christmas was my favorite holiday.  I loved everything about it- the twinkling lights, evergreen trees, joyful songs, and the excited buzz of people shopping for their loved ones.  
As my sisters and I baked Christmas cookies in the early afternoon, we sang Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” at the top of our lungs.  Lindsay grabbed a wooden spoon microphone and Chelsea began pirouetting across the tile floor.  Our golden retriever, Cinnamon, chased Caylee around the kitchen island, begging for a taste of the raspberry swirl cookie dough.  
“GIRLS!!! Your grandparents are going to be here in less than an hour! You need to get ready!” my mom shrieked from her upstairs bathroom.
We frantically began throwing dishes into the soapy bubbles of the kitchen sink.  One by one, we sprinted upstairs to begin showering and picking out our dresses to wear to Christmas mass.  Not too long after, Cinnamon began wildly barking, a sure sign that Grandma and Grandpa had arrived.
Immediately, we dropped our make-up brushes and curling irons to greet our honored guests.  
“Grandpa!” Chelsea exclaimed as she was wrestled into the tightest hug of her life.  
“GRANDMA!!!” I shouted with delight before leaning over to hug my favorite person in the whole wide world.  
It was on days like this, that it didn’t matter that she couldn’t walk.  It didn’t matter that she was paralyzed.  Her joy was radiant.  Her energy exuberant.  She would light up inside, filled with hope and gratitude. The holidays were her very best days.  
As the final members of our family descended into the foyer, we made our way into the mini-van to head to Christmas Eve mass.  The rest of the evening was a whirlwind of Christmas carols, gift giving, shrimp eating, and the kind of laughter that makes you happy to be alive.
Eventually, the magical evening drew to a close.  Before Grandma and Grandpa could leave, a few of us snuck outside, wrapped from head to toe in fluffy winter coats and homemade scarfs.  Lining the driveway were clear milk jugs, filled halfway with sand, topped with a tea-light candle.  Leaning over, our rosy cheeks and noses peeping out from above our scarfs, we lit each of the candles.  
 Suddenly, our driveway didn’t seem so dark and dreary.  It had been transformed into a glowing runway.  As I lit the last candle, I took a moment of silence to take in the world around me- the cold winter breeze, the twinkling stars, the quiet crunch of the icy world around me.  
“Stace, it is time to say goodbye,” my dad said gently as he tapped me on the shoulder.  
I nodded and followed his lead.  Together, four of us lifted my grandma, wheelchair and all, down the front steps of our porch.  As we tipped her backwards, she gasped in fear, grabbing tightly onto my hand.  I squeezed hers, silently letting her know that there was nothing to fear.
My family trailed behind and for the first time in a long time, I had a moment alone with my grandma.  I slowly pushed her wheelchair down the driveway, both of us taking in the flickering candle light and the snow sparkling around the homemade lanterns.
Next, I lifted her very carefully into the front seat of the van, buckling her safely into position.  Tears began to stream down her face as she shared something that I had never heard before.  She told me all about her longing for a baby girl and how God had gifted her with three beautiful boys instead.  She reminisced about our days together, reminding me of all the quality time that we had spent shopping, dancing, baking, and telling stories- all of the things she had dreamed of doing with a daughter of her own. Finally, she slipped off a golden ring with a light blue gem surrounded by two baby diamonds.  She pressed it into the center of my palm and instantly I knew that this would become a daily reminder of my beautiful grandma.  
As my grandpa drew closer to the door of the van, I put my hand around her paralyzed hand.  With her other hand, she grabbed onto mine tighter than ever before.
“Sometimes I wish I could hug you and just never let you go,” she said with a smile so sweet that my heart almost melted.  Tears began to escape from the corners of my eyes.  I planted a kiss on her cheek and hugged her for what felt like an eternity.  I never wanted to let go.
Barely a week later, my grandma passed away in her sleep.  
It was peaceful.  
It was sudden.  
But I know, without a doubt, that my grandma has been guided by the brightest of lanterns to a place of eternal peace and joy.  
I truly believe that someday, I will see her again; and, together, we will dance with the angels and sing praises with the saints.  And never again, will we have to let go.