“February 22, 2016
It was two years ago today that you fell.
I’ll never forget receiving the phone call.
I thought I would never hear your voice again.
Today, more than ever, I’m thankful for you.
What would I do without my Omie? I need you.
I love you more than you’ll ever know.
You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.
How did I get so lucky?
I’ll be home for you soon.
When I was a kid, I remember the seasons very vividly. I was lucky to grow up in Virginia where the seasons are rich and diverse in color, climate and activities. If I close my eyes, I can transport myself back to that time. A much simpler time in my life where what I looked forward to most, was the changing of the season.
I liked each season for a different reason. It’s hard to believe that there are places in this country that only experience one or two seasons. I didn’t realize what a luxury that was until I experienced the desert. I’m going to close my eyes and take you to the seasons I knew as a kid.
My favorite season. My longing for this season comes from my grandmother Omie’s love affair with the colors, cool temperatures and excuse to enjoy a hot tea and wear a robe. On a crisp October day, I would wake up to the sounds of Omie in the kitchen, making coffee, listening to the local radio aloud. When I finally woke up and made my way to her, she would ask if I wanted apple pancakes, or a bagel cut up into four pieces, or a piece of rye toast and a side of hot chocolate. I can still taste the hot chocolate she would make for me, a taste I, myself, have never been able to replicate.
In the fall, we would take trips to the pumpkin patch next door to her house, or we would go to the $2 movie rental store and find something to keep us entertained. We would make popcorn, wear our robes and spend hours playing games or simply existing next to one another. I watched the leaves change over the course of weeks. I was always told to wear my jacket and count how many different colors I saw on the trees while on the school bus.
In Virginia, we experience a mild(ish) winter, with the occasional blizzard. I don’t know if there is a winter I can remember where we didn’t get at least a few inches of snow to play in. On snow days, my parents usually had to work. When my parents were away, I went to Omie’s house and I was always excited. Not only did I get the day off from school, but I got to spend the day with my friend- playing in the snow, drinking hot chocolate, playing cards or dominoes, taking naps and watching movies. I can still remember the feeling of excitement and every road we took to get to her house and how I was anxious to get there already.
In addition to the snow and cold weather, the winter season always meant the holidays were here. To this day, I’m not big on Christmas, or the music, lights, etc. It makes me feel sad. I feel lonely when I think about them. These feelings stem from the rich, abundant memories I have of decorating Omie’s house for Christmas, and the music we listened to, or how we watched a Charlie Brown Christmas special. The Charlie Brown theme haunts me like my childhood does. I can still remember how proud Omie was of her decorations which included her ceramic lit tree, or her skating rink and light up houses. She would sing “O Tannenbaum” or “Silent Night” in German and it was beautiful.
One time when I was about six years old, at my request, Omie stayed the night at my house before Christmas so we could wait for Santa. We laid in my bed talking about what Santa must be like and how he makes his rounds all on Christmas eve. Right as I was falling asleep, Omie shook me and pointed outside showing me that Santa was going by on his sleigh. I saw the red and white blinking lights and couldn’t believe my eyes. She would tell her friends that was saw Santa that night and she kept hope alive for me.
I loved when spring finally arrived in Virginia. The grey was no longer covering our skies, the trees and flowers felt alive again. You could finally hang your coat up for the season, take long walks outside and sit on the porch. Omie always told me how much she loved fall, but her love for spring was equal in my opinion. She would light up when the weather permitted for her to open the patio door and let the fresh air in. She would always make a pitcher of peach iced tea and cut up an apple on a warm spring day.
Together, we would play cards on the porch, go shopping for new flowers, or take long walks through the neighborhood. Our days were filled with fresh air and bright colors. Her favorite color was light blue and she had many t-shirts and sweaters that she would bring down from the tub labeled “spring clothes” and debut as the season changed.
For as long as I can remember, I spent my summers with Omie. My parents worked and didn’t know how to occupy my entire day, but they knew Omie would. Summers in Virginia are also mild(ish) with temperatures in the 80s-90s with hellacious humidity. On a hot summer day, we would pack a pool bag with sunscreen, library books and snacks. We spent half our day at the neighborhood pool and Omie would stand beside me, teaching me how to swim. Other days, we would go to the local library and rent books, or go to the grocery store and get the ingredients to make a fruit smoothie. I would read dozens of books over the summer, sometimes aloud to Omie while she worked on a crossword puzzle.
My life has been filled with a lot of uncertainties. I changed elementary schools five times and lived in various different houses, all within my hometown. My life could have very easily gone another way. My one constant, the source of my unwavering support and love came from my grandmother.
There is not one single instance in my 25 years of life that I can recall a time where she let me down. She showed me what unconditional love and sacrifice really was.
My brother and I were not raised in a household where physical affection was a staple point. In fact, we received very little. As an adult, it is not where I find comfort and security. I’m not sure that will ever change.
There is no place I find comfort, like in the arms of Omie. When I cried, or felt sad, she would pull my head close to her chest and stroke my hair. She would tell me it was going to be okay and I believed her. She would tell me how she prayed and prayed that her last grandchild would be a girl and not another boy. She told me how her prayers were answered on August 11th 1992, and the feeling she had when she saw the little pink blanket. She told me the feeling she had when she looked at me for the first time and held me in her arms was unlike any other.
I don’t know that feeling, of course, but I imagine it is what I feel every time she hugged me, or blew me a kiss goodbye. A feeling of relief, a feeling of gratitude and a feeling of comfort. A feeling that creates a lump in my throat just thinking about it.
Two days ago, I was asleep and my alarm was set for 7:15am. Waking up at this time would allow me enough time to get ready for work, grab something to eat and warm-up my car. I went to bed the night before uneasy. I tossed and turned the entire night. At one point, I woke up drenched in sweat. Something was not right and my body was telling me as much.
At around 6:45am, Adam’s mom, Lynn, entered my room. I was half asleep and didn’t inquire as to why she was in there. The next thing I knew, she was standing beside my bed, telling me I needed to wake up. I told her I had another 30 minutes to sleep but she pleaded for me to wake up. She told me I needed to call my mom. With one eye open, I rolled over and grabbed my phone.
No missed calls from mom.
I knew something was wrong.
Lynn stood by me and Adam sat up as I called my mom. When my mom answered the phone, she was crying; I could barely understand her. I feared the next sentence she would say would concern Omie.
“Kendall, I’m sorry. Omie passed away this morning. I’m so sorry”
The rest is blank. I felt like somebody had thrown me on the floor and kicked me in the chest. The phone call I have dreaded my entire life was happening and I didn’t know how to handle it. I sat on the floor and sobbed into my shirt, trying to process what this meant. Before I could do that, I knew I had to call my brother, Ryan. He had to hear this news from me, not someone else.
I called him over and over again until he answered. I knew I had woken him up as it was 3:45am his time. I blurted out the news to him and he was silent. He didn’t say anything for a while. He, like me, was in shock and later told me it felt like the blood had run out of his body.
Omie is no longer in pain, she doesn’t need her walker to walk. Her beautiful, young soul is free at last. She was ready to leave this earth; that I know that for sure.
She didn’t fear death or what came next. She was a spiritual being whose heart was composed of kindness and peace. She always did what was right, no matter what it meant. She dedicated her time to traveling the world, helping others, her friends and worthy causes. She enjoyed crossword puzzles, going home to Austria, wearing colorful scarves and listening to opera music. She embodied all the qualities of a mother and grandmother. She was strong. She was fearless.
She was good.
I will never have another hug from Omie. She will never blow me another kiss goodbye. I will never sit down to write her another letter. When referencing time, there will be a time when Omie was here and a time she isn’t anymore.
When I arrived at her assisted living facility, the receptionist at the front had just received the news about Omie. She looked up at me with red eyes and asked if my name was Kendall. I said yes. She reached out and handed me two letters in my handwriting. She told me they were sitting in Omie’s mailbox.
She will never read them; they got there too late. When I got to her room, I found that she had kept every letter I had every written to her in the last four years.
Every single one.
When I talk about Omie, smell her scarves, or listen to old voicemails, my eyes may always be filled with tears. They are not all tears of sadness but tears of gratitude and appreciation. They are tears that simply mean I am missing the greatest friend I’ve ever known, or will ever know.
Omie, what I would give for one more season with you.