Losing my grandmother was like losing a parent.

I think most people do not understand where I am coming from with this tremendous pain and grief in my heart. Let me share a bit of myself. I grew up having both my grandfather and grandmother by my side. I was the first grandchild in the family. When I was born, all of my mum’s siblings were not yet married or even had their own families. I have lived with all these great people in the same house for approximately around five years until slowly my aunts got married. These great people have brought me up to who I am now with all their love and values instilled in me. My uncle and aunts joked around quite often that I am actually their youngest sibling and not their niece. I would have happily accepted that.

I moved to a different city when I was seven. Even distance could not take me away from my family. I remember calling them back home straight away when I got there. The lady on the phone kept insisting I dialled the wrong number. Back then, I had no idea area codes existed and that in order to ring them back home, I had to dial that, too.

Now, my grandfather lived closer to where I moved. He was taking care of our farm and it was far from home. He was closer now. I can see him more often now. He made sure to visit me every weekend. He was always there to make me laugh and smile. He never failed. I looked forward to Friday nights because I knew he was coming to visit me for the weekend. We would have late night meals. We would both crave the same thing– scrambled eggs on toast. Sometimes, I would visit him at the farm. He would show me the horses grazing on the field, the chickens and their eggs in incubators, the fishes in the pond, the flowers that bloom and the barn with the great view. He built me my own tree house after a while. A year or two after that, he gave us our own property for us to build our future farm on. My grandfather was not just a grandfather. He was my father. He taught me everything a father should teach their children. He taught me how to love. He was the sweetest thing in the world. He fought for me. He protected me. He was always there when I needed him most.

I failed him. I was not there when he needed me. He died on 22 March 2007 of cardiac arrest, I was not there. My brother was born the next day and was named after him. I waited to see my brother for the first time and went home straight away to say goodbye to my grandfather.

I promised myself I would be there for my grandmother when it was time for her to say goodbye.

My family moved to New Zealand in 2011. I was gutted to leave home. Home was where my heart was. I wanted to see my grandmother all the time. I was anxious being far from her. She came to New Zealand twice– summer of 2013 and 2015. She would make me smoothies, prepare cucumber for me, cook my favourite food, go shopping with me, go on dates with me, buy me little things, bring me home takeaways, take photos with me, tell me to upload photos on Facebook, tag herself on all the photos, post our adventures, message me when I’m at work, message me when they leave, run around the house trying to pinch me for drinking off the pitcher, fix up our garden and the most classic– at the end of the day she simply just cuddles with me. The next time I saw her was when I went home for the first time in seven years– 2018. She was still as beautiful and healthy as she was in the past years. She was like a goddess in my eyes. The loveliest person in the world. Although, my grandmother was a piece of work herself, I think we all agree that she has been the best grandmother to us all. She would have moved mountains for me, I know that in my heart. Little did I know, that was the last time I’ll ever see her healthy, vibrant and bright. In March 2019, health problems started to surface. We did not know what it was, she jumped from one complication to another, was admitted to the hospital more than a couple times and had been taking a lot of medications since. In November 2019, we all agreed to go home and spend time with her.

We did not know what was going to happen.

My uncle wanted us all to be there if anything was to occur and it was too late for us all to see her. I was the first one to get there. She was still in the hospital when I arrived. I went there straight away after dropping off my bag at home from the airport. I missed her dearly. She was getting thin, her hair was grey, she had rashes and was itching literally from head to toe. She had an oxygen mask, an IV line and was so fragile to even touch. I would have never pictured her to change drastically in a year. I did not even realise she was getting old until I saw her without her make-up, dyed hair, a fancy clothing and her jewelries. My heart sunk a little. I could never imagine a life without her in it.

We all believed she was recovering well. Then, the Covid-19 lockdown began. I saw her on 11 April 2020 via Facebook Messenger. The family was having one of our usual video chats on an Easter weekend. This was the last time I saw her. Three days after that, I messaged her asking how she was feeling. She told me her abdomen was painful and that the tuna sisig might have caused it. I was joking around telling her that it was nearly impossible for such good food to cause you pain. I did not hear from her again. The following day, she had a cardiac arrest, was rushed to the hospital, fell into coma and died a few hours later. My grandmother died on 15 April 2020.

I was not there for her. I failed. Again.

It was so surreal. I was talking to her yesterday, and now she’s gone. I cannot even go home to see her even if I wanted to. The borders were closed. I was alone. This was a battle I had to fight alone. She was buried on 17 April 2020– two days after she died. There were only eight people with her on that day, everyone else were on their screens, watching the live video we set-up. I was on the background doing all this work and technicalities. I did not even have the time to grieve. I was doing everything I could because it was the only way I knew… Everything happened so fast. All these messages started pouring in my inbox. I have not even processed the situation and yet, people started asking questions, they all wanted to know everything that happened.

I’m sorry if you were one of those people I have not replied to. I hope this explains everything. I do not know when I would be able to find the strength or courage to talk to people again without breaking down. I am so lost– in such a dark place. Even as I write this, I am struggling to find the words to express my pain.

Now, how do I feel about this?

I feel like I’ve lost my parents. Don’t get me wrong, my dad and mum are amazing. They are one of the strongest people I know. They are the best. But, as to how much my grandparents mean to me, they are definitely one of the few I hold dearly in my heart. They mean the world to me. As for moving on? I do not think I would be able to do that, yet. At least not in the next couple weeks or even months. The healing process might take longer.

Thank you to each and everyone who showed their sympathies to me and my family. I really am truly grateful. I’m sorry if I take some time off talking and socialising with most of you. Stay strong. Kia kaha.