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My graduation program fell out of a box I was recently looking through and was covered in my grandmother’s handwriting. She had that chicken-scratch handwriting, so characteristic of the elderly.

She’d written my name, the date, time, and purpose of the event on the front cover, even though it was already clearly printed. It got me to thinking about how she used to write on the back of every photo that passed through her hands, a summary of what it represented.

She must have died with thousands upon thousands of polaroids containing handwritten notes in her possession. Then I wondered if she’d always done that, or if she’d just made it a habit when Alzheimer’s moved in.

Somewhere along my line of thinking, a sense of panic crept in. I pondered the comfort found in the presence of a corpus, the grief felt in its absence and the need to seek spirit to reconcile and make sense of a need to connect the two.

The panic wasn’t because she isn’t here, it was because she is, and because for a second, I thought only I knew. There isn’t anything except paper to write my memories of her upon, and like me, the paper will one day disappear. I wondered, where will she be when I leave too?

No answer comforted me and no imaginings grieved me, except a sudden pressing need to tell my children more about her, so they understand love in the way she taught me.

Then I realized, I am loving in the way she taught me, so in that way they do know her, and because she gave so much of her heart away to me, I’m able to do the same for them.

Getting old feels like nostalgia, like the past and the present got together to weave a patchwork quilt. It helps me remember what’s essential when I feel like crying or giving up, and reinforces how much my memory is used to keep everyone I love as warm as possible.

Nevertheless, I cried when I put that program away, cause she lost her memories. I imagine Alzheimer’s took away all those photos that kept her warm. She didn’t know how much it meant that in all the world, she was the only person to show up for me, and not just for that day either. Her presence gave me the strength to later learn how to show up for myself.

Death is always cold, but I finally dried my tears at remembering how everlasting life pours into everyone the warmth that another life once poured into them.