My beloved grandmother (Vovo) passed away on Saturday, May 12th, during her early morning bath. It is what I’ve been praying for, a peaceful, easeful transition.
As you can imagine there are many emotions surrounding such a loss. I’ve never experienced anything like it. My grandmother was the very first person to hold me in this world. Above is a picture of us that “appeared” seemingly out of thin air, on my dresser the day I received the call from Edina, her caretaker and my soul sister. I was one in the picture, she was 52. We were besties from the start.
My grandmother has and always will be my teacher, my elder, my rock. It’s hard to imagine that I’ll never see her hand or kiss her cheek again but even as I write these words I can feel her arms around me, and I can hear her saying, “No, not in body again this time around but I’m with you in a deeper, more soul-ful way.”
I jumped on a plane the next day and spent two weeks in Brazil, where my family is from. I was able to celebrate, grieve, and honor my Vovo. There were the traditional ways, a viewing in a beautiful funeral home, a mass at her church, story telling around a table. And some not so traditional ways, a samba party at her nursing home and an impromptu hike in Friburgo, where she grew up, to release some of her ashes. During my time in Brazil I journeyed on my own a lot, on streets I walked beside her as a little girl, on the beautiful beaches, visiting churches, and through it all I missed her deeply.
As I wandered the streets of Rio or sat in special places, waves of deep grief suddenly washed over me. Each time butterflies appeared. One day, the first and deepest day of grief, four butterflies patiently stayed with me for thirty minutes. Each time I wept they came closer. Then, as I calmed down they went back to their flowers until the next time I sobbed, then back to me they came. It was incredible. Finally I looked up and said, “I don’t want butterflies, I want you.” But of course she’s not coming back. I could hear her saying, “Ninety-nine years was enough.”
I have received many gifts from grandmother’s passing. The other day I was in a restorative yoga class, the tears of longing running down my cheeks, and I saw her. She was a butterfly (yes more butterflies) of light, flying and dancing to the piano music that was playing in the room. I felt her sense of freedom, completely unencumbered by the physical body. I remember reading a channelled book many years ago called Emmanuel’s Book and when asked his opinion of death Emmanuel responded that it was like taking off a very tight shoe at the end of a long day. I am grateful that my grandmother is free.
I’m beginning to understand that my grandmother has simply gone through a transformation. Maybe here on earth she was in her caterpillar stage, heavy, working, toiling. And now she’s liberated, the butterfly that flies from flower to flower, light, beautiful, and free.
Everything get’s put into perspective when we are dealing with a big event like the loss of a loved one. Suddenly the small stuff is just that, small stuff. I helped to pack up all my grandmothers “things” and we donated or divided them up. I took a pair of pajamas, her teddy bear (Little Marcello – named after her doctor), her glasses, a purple flower barrette, pictures, my favorite shirts, a few books, rosary beads, some of her ashes, and letters I had sent her throughout the years. The physical remnants of a life.
We really can’t take it all with us. What’s going to be left when we pass? I hope, like her, I leave something of real value. I hope I have meant something to the people around me and that I’ve done some good in the world.