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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Absence

So my last blog was November 30th, and I was like "Hey watch out for my blog and all this fun stuff happening!" And then I never posted again. December 2012 marks the first month in the history of this blog that I didn't blog at all.

I knew I needed to take a break from blogging, but I didn't want to say why I was taking break, because I'd have to explain it, so I kept putting it off. And then I didn't want to blog, because I'd have to explain why I hadn't been, and that would mean really talking about it, and I didn't want to.

But now I think it's time.

The best way for me to tell this story is to tell it all. This is going to be a long blog, so you can choose not to read it. But here's the beginning: My favorite person in the whole world died. Not my fake favorite like Tom Hardy, but the actual person that meant more to me than anything.

I think that's the best way to say it, because saying "my grandma died" doesn't actually articulate what happened. Nor does it convey even slightly the tremendous loss the world has without Nanny.

I'm sure most people love their grandparents and think they're awesome. But Nanny truly was the most awesome grandma ever. I describe her as a cross between Michael Caine and Betty White, but that doesn't even explain her awesomeness. She was British and had the quickest wit and she was so warm and she was everybody's grandma or mom. Everyone loved her. Everyone that knew her loved her.

My earliest memories are being with her. She used babysit me all the time, and I've lived with her on and off most of my life. She would read to me, and I would tell her stories. Nanny was the first person that encouraged to me tell stories, and she nurtured the imagination and loved me so unconditionally that I absolutely couldn't have done any of the things I've done without her.

A few years ago, Nanny started getting Alzheimer's. Everything happened so fast after that. By the time I was publishing books, she was too far gone to read them. She could still read, but she no longer had the attention span or memory to get past a page.

And for years - probably my entire life - I told Nanny I would be an author, and I would take her to England. By the time I could finally afford to, she was too far gone to travel. If there's anything in my life that I regret or that I'm truly angry about it's that. She left England in 1957, and she's only been back three times since then, even though her mom and brother and sisters were there. And I just I wanted to take here there, and I never could, and it pisses me off and it hurts and there's nothing can do about it.

The first time she forgot my name was one of the hardest days of my life. My aunt was living with Nanny and taking care of her, and she needed my help with something. And I went over, and Nanny knew she should know me, but she didn't. And she was crying, and I kept reassuring her that it was okay. But I went home and I bawled because that's when I knew I was really losing her, that Nanny wasn't going to be here much longer.

The thing about Alzheimer's it's that you get to lose them twice. Her body was here, but her mind was mostly gone. But then she'd had have these moments of almost-clarity where she'd sound like herself, and that was the worst. Because then it was gone. And I just wanted to talk to her. 

On November 16, 2012, the Friday before Thanksgiving, my mom and I went up to Nanny's care facility (she'd been living in a memory care unit for some time). We thought it was just for a meeting to see how she was doing since they'd adjusted some of her meds. Instead, they sat us down and told us that Nanny was dying, and she maybe had six months.

It was this surreal moment when the head of the facility sat us down. As soon as she did, I knew that Nanny was dying, and I kept thinking, "But she doesn't have cancer. She was just at the doctors, and they didn't do tests. She can't have cancer."

Well, no, Nanny didn't have cancer. But her body was shutting down, and she didn't have much time left.

We went to talk with her, and Nanny was so drowsy and out of it. She barely spoke to us. She was barely awake. But when my mom hugged her, Nanny kept telling her it would be okay. Then we left. And that was the last time I saw her alive.

On midnight on December 4th, Nanny passed away in her sleep.

My mom had gone to seen Nanny between the day we found she was dying and the day she died. But I didn't. She was so out of it, and I... I don't know. I want nothing more than the world than to talk to her again, but I couldn't talk to her like that. She couldn't really talk.

I know she loved me, and she knows I loved her. I know that. And that's the one comfort I have.

Because of the Alzheimer's, I expected her passing to be easier. Because I'd already lost her. But the finality of death has really made this excruciating. I will never talk to her again. The brutality of that statement is immeasurable.

When I was 14-15, I lived a block away from her. I used to walk over to her house in the afternoon. We'd go through her old pictures and we'd talk. And I am so very grateful for that time. That's probably been the best use of my time in my entire life.


But I still miss her so much. It's like all the times I spent missing her over the past few years, I'd bottled them, and they're all here now. It's a wave of emptiness, and it feels like its taken the best parts of me. She was all love and laughter. I know that doesn't make sense, but anything she gave me, I still have, but it feels like a part of me gone. Like a huge chunk of me just disappeared.

And it doesn't seem possible that she's not here. It doesn't seem fair that the world can exist without her. And I'm mad that I have to live without her. And I'm mad that my kids will never get to know her. I'm mad that nobody will ever get to know her agian, the world has been deprived of her.

And I know I'm doing a bad job of telling how amazing she truly was, but it's because there aren't words. There was something intangible about her, something utterly lovely and charming and warm and genuine and funny, and you felt it whenever you were around her. She made you feel loved and special, and she was quick and smart.

And I know that I should just feel grateful about the time I had with her. She was amazing, and many of my favorite memories from my childhood are with her. I got to her know, and she loved me. And I should be grateful, and I am.

But I'm also greedy. I wanted more time. I just want to talk to her again. I've never wanted anything more. I didn't even know it was possible to want something this much. And every time I think I can't cry anymore, I cry more.

So that's it. That's why I haven't been blogging or writing or really doing anything all that useful the last few weeks. I hadn't written anything since Nanny died, but I started writing last night. I miss her, and I will always miss her.

Nanny and me in 1995

49 comments:

  1. I feel for you. I remember crying all night when my Grandpa died. I had this terrible sense of emprtyness and frustration because there were so many things I'd never got around to telling him.

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  2. My prayers are with you and your family. It is so hard and devastating to lose our loved ones. Time will make things more manageable.

    So sorry for your loss.

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  3. Oh Amanda! I know your pain all to familiarly. I lost my grandpop 5 years ago this year. He was fine 5 Christmases ago, got sick in January that manifested to a stroke in February and he died in early March. The last words I heard him speak to me were half lucid in a morphine haze the end of January. His stroke went undiagnosed for 2 weeks because he was on a ventilator for severe pneumonia. He was my everything. The only true and stable constant in my life. They also lived a block from me and I was at their house as much as my own. We took trips every Sunday to Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. Day trips to historic sites, off the beaten path places and steam trains - his passion. My daughter was 7 when he died and my son was born after, so neither will truly know the amazing person he was, he was 91 but acted in his 70s. He was a banker. My grandparents were ballroom dancers on the side. Watching them practice in the foyer was magic. I know it hurts like hell now. Its going to hurt forever, but the worst is the first year. All the first holidays, gatherings, special events without Nanny will be excruciating. Eventually the sad memories start to fade and all that is left is love, happiness and those cherished memories. Write down your favorite moments and stories because in time, some of those fade, too. Get it down while its fresh and new and pass those stories to your kids. Hugs to your family.

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  4. Oh Amanda! I know your pain all to familiarly. I lost my grandpop 5 years ago this year. He was fine 5 Christmases ago, got sick in January that manifested to a stroke in February and he died in early March. The last words I heard him speak to me were half lucid in a morphine haze the end of January. His stroke went undiagnosed for 2 weeks because he was on a ventilator for severe pneumonia. He was my everything. The only true and stable constant in my life. They also lived a block from me and I was at their house as much as my own. We took trips every Sunday to Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. Day trips to historic sites, off the beaten path places and steam trains - his passion. My daughter was 7 when he died and my son was born after, so neither will truly know the amazing person he was, he was 91 but acted in his 70s. He was a banker. My grandparents were ballroom dancers on the side. Watching them practice in the foyer was magic. I know it hurts like hell now. Its going to hurt forever, but the worst is the first year. All the first holidays, gatherings, special events without Nanny will be excruciating. Eventually the sad memories start to fade and all that is left is love, happiness and those cherished memories. Write down your favorite moments and stories because in time, some of those fade, too. Get it down while its fresh and new and pass those stories to your kids. Hugs to your family.

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  5. I'm so sorry for your loss, Amanda. It's such an unfair illness, both for the person who has it and their loved ones. It sounds like your grandma had a very loving and supportive family around her and was very well looked after, which is all you can do when someone has the illness she did. Thinking of you and your family.

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  6. I'm sorry for your loss, but I'm glad you had the kind of relationship with your grandmother that you did.

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  7. I'm so sorry. There are people in our lives that are so substantial so treasured, that we can't imagine the world without them. I just went through the same thing. My grandma had dimentia, and it was awful watching pieces of her slowly disappear. There are no words, just like you said to explain the pain, or the joy she brought to your life while she was here. Its like the stars without the moon, the world is tilted off its axis without her. It will take some time to get back to writing. I know it has for me, she's only been gone, two months now and the wound is still open and bleeding. I wish you the best and hope that you find peace. Grandma's are beautiful, I'm so glad I had mine.

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  9. you will heal. you will smile. you will laugh. you will remember. you will continue to hear her. you will continue to talk to her. you will make her proud-- you already have. It will take time-- but know you will.

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  10. I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't begin to imagine what that must feel like. I was never very close to my grandmother. You and she were very lucky to have one another. You both sound like lovely individuals. I know this is something that is very hard to get through but I hope that you have the support you need to get through this difficult time. Thank you for sharing this very personal piece of your life. xo

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  11. I'm so sorry. I actually started crying when I read this. You did a perfect job of describing how wondeful she was as a person and to you. Thank you for sharing this with all of us, and of course this was more important than blogging. I wish you all the best xox

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  12. Oh sweety, i'm so sorry you have to know this kind of sorrow. Your Nanny sounds like a awesome lady. Hang in there! The days are long at first but they get better.

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  13. So sorry for your loss. She is lucky she had such a sweet granddaughter who can carry on her memory. Take care of yourself and don't let the grief wear you down. Your Grandma would want you to live and be happy.

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  14. I had a grandam I loved like you loved yours. Feeling your sorrow and understanding how painful it is to lose someone so, so very important to you. Praying comfort and blessings on you, Amanda. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Oh Amanda, I am so sorry for your loss. My grandmother passed away a few years ago, and it was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to go through. Your Nanny sounds alot like my Gramma. She was so fun and easy to talk to. We loved to read the same books and then talk about what we loved and hated about them. She was from NY, and I grew up in GA so I didn't get to spend as much time with her as I would have liked to, but when I was a teenager my parents bought the house across the street from us and fixed it up just for her. She would come down and stay in GA during the NY winters. I can remember when I graduated and started my first real job I'd go over every day and eat lunch with her. I cherish that time now. She was an amazing lady and I miss her every day. Always cherish the time you had with your Nanny. I pray it gets easier for you and your sorrow lessens. {Hugs}

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  16. I am so sorry for your liss Amanda. I lost my grandpa to Alzhiemers several years ago. You explained it pergectly, you lose them twice and it hurts like crazy. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

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  17. I am so sorry for your liss Amanda. I lost my grandpa to Alzhiemers several years ago. You explained it pergectly, you lose them twice and it hurts like crazy. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

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  18. I also lost my grandfather to Alzhiemers it sucks becuase he didnt know who we were. A few years before he passed I lost my grandma to cancer. They death of both made me think about how short life truly is. It pissed me off because I loved them both dearly and now my children won't know any set of grandparents on my side of the family. My grandma on my dad's side passed in 2009 and that was the hardest on our family. Losing someone you love dearly is like losing a piece of yourself.

    Each passing day will make you one step closer to her and closure. My heart goes our to you and your family.

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  19. My sympathies for the loss of your grandmother. Alzheimer's is a truly cruel disease; my father had Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

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  20. I am sorry for your loss. Losing someone so important in your life changes you and with Alzheimer's it's almost a relief that they are out of pain and freed from their body. And yet, they're gone.

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  21. Sorry to hear this, Amanda. Sounds like she was a very special lady.

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  22. I am truly sorry...that's a pain I do understand, having lost my dad in similar circumstances. It's a thousand little losses that loom so large that they're overwhelming. The regrets of what should have been are wrapped so tightly around each and every one of those losses...but you said it perfectly, you made us all feel it, and for that I suspect your grandmother would be very proud.

    Write for her. Write *to* her. It's hard at first, but it does help.

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  23. I am so incredibly sorry for your pain. I lost my dad on September 1st of this year, and even though he had cancer, and we had already started mourning him when he was diagnosed, it has been an extremely difficult few months. I also have regrets that he'll never get to read one of my books (It was really his death that made me realize I had to at least try to write for real) but I hold on to the 35 years of love and happiness we had and that helps. Most of the time. The best thing someone told me when he died was there weren't words to really comfort you when someone you love dies, it just sucks. There is no getting around it. So I'm sorry for your pain and wish you strength during this difficult time. Eventually the good memories outnumber the sad ones.

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  24. I'm so sorry to hear that you went through this, especially during the holidays. My own grandma died several years ago after struggling with Alzheimer's, and it is such a heartbreaking disease. There were days when she didn't know anyone, and she would get scared and cry, or get angry and shout at everyone. Or days when she would refuse to eat until my grandpa got home (he died before I was even born). I'm not particularly religious, but I still believe that her spirit is around, and that she knows all of my accomplishments, and has been there for all of my major life events. I hope you feel that too.

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  25. Amanda, I know it doesn't help, not really, to know you're not alone... but you're not. My 90-year-old father lives with my wife and I. We see him, therefore, all the time, every day. When you visited Portland, he was why Andie and I had to leave right away after the reading instead of hanging with you and your friends and my Portland writer friends... he's why we couldn't go out for ice cream after. Because we can't leave him alone for long stretches, and we'd reached our time limit. Like your experience, I see less and less of the Dad I grew up with in the man living with us each day. It is like losing him before he's gone. And even with several sudden hospital trips in the last year, only to have him bounce back and turn out fine, I know that once we finally do lose him for good, it's going to be completely devastating. I'm familiar with that sense of "we both know how we feel" feeling, but also feeling like things are unresolved... things that can never be resolved again... because the Alzheimer's (and, in my Dad's case, dementia as well) is taking away the parts of him that would allow that to happen. And I went through it once before, though without that person living with us, when I was in high school and college, when my grandma (who lived across the street from us) got her case of Alzheimers and spent her last seven or eight years in a nursing home getting progressively less coherent. I have found some help by pouring some of those experiences and feelings into my writing (SHADA had some Alzheimer's story threads) so maybe at some point you can find a way to write about it, too. I also have felt helped by a local Alzheimer's support group. Unfortunately, those groups are often populated by folks who've lost a spouse, which isn't quite the same as losing a grandparent or a parent. My thoughts are with you. And I do know what it's like. :)

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  26. Amanda,

    I am truly sorry for your loss. I hope you and your family get through this terrible time. Your books have gotten me through some pretty rough times, so I wish I could return the favor. Please know you are in my thoughts and I look forward to whatever wonderfulness you create next.

    Mary

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  27. I'm so sorry for your loss Amanda, I know that mere words can't mend the wounds. I lost my grandma a few years ago and she meant more to me than anyone in the world. I'm an artist and she was always encouraging my creativity and trying to get me to draw more. For a long time it was hard for me to remember anything about her except for the cancer and chemo, but slowly bits of her starting to overshadow that like her smile and her laugh and the way she smelled. My grandpa has alzheimers and I know how rough that can be, he forgot who I was when I was staying at his house to take care of him and would tell me he was tired and couldn't have guests over anymore and asked me to go home. It was hard. It still is pretty hard.
    Take Care Amanda and I hope that the loving memories of your grandma surpass the memories of her alzheimers and you remember her spirit.

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  28. I'm so sorry Amanda. I understand how you feel because when I was like 10 my grandma died and even if I didn't know her as much as I could have, I still missed her presence. She used to be the best cook ever and I missed going to her apartment and being served something so good. I also miss her being so helpful and encouraging. My mom tells me that when I was just a baby she would make knit clothes for me and it would make me want to cry. I still miss her even if it's been almost ten years since she's passed. It will get easier in time. But I know the pain is still there. I just hope you feel better soon and know that just because she's gone doesn't mean she isn't in a better place watching over you. I bet you can even talk to her :)

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  29. I hate when people tell me they are sorry when they find out my father pasted, but I still want to tell you that I really am sorry about your lose. You are a wonderful person who changed my life through your books and it hurts to think that you have to go through such a hard time. I think you did a wonderful job explaining how wonderful your grandmom was and I am certain she was proud of you even though she could express it in the end. Take care and try to focus on the good memories. :)

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  30. My Grams loved me completely and spoiled me beyond any rational sense :) And I loved every minute of it! One day Hospice called and I knew that I had a really small window to go down and see her -- but I didn't, for reasons that seem pretty stupid now. My wife and I had just found out that we were pregnant with our first and it kills me to know that Grams would have LOVED to share one more secret with me.

    I really REALLY regret not seeing her that one last time.

    Grieving is inevitable (I'm told that it's a part of the healing) and the pain does lessen...somewhat. But then there are nights when you dream about them and you wake up feeling the full intensity of things all over again.

    From one person whose been blessed with a wonderfully awesome grandparent to another, I am deeply sorry for your loss. Just remember one thing, it's painful for grandparents - and parents - to watch the most important people in their lives wrestle with pain. So find a memory that makes you smile and hang on to it. You'd be amazed at how easy it is to cry and laugh at the same time.

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  31. I am so sorry. Our world is a horrible place. I would say I understand, but I've never experienced a loss that intense before. I can say I understand how impossible it is to put into words. The closest I can compare it to is trying to explain the grief of losing a dog to someone with no pets. You are in my prayers and I know your grandma is in heaven, reading your books, and listening to all the things you couldn't tell her. <3

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  33. Amanda,
    Today was the day I was referred to your blog as something I should emulate as a writer ready to seek publishing (one way or another) with my first book. I have spent all day looking at your past postings. Learning about how you have created this crest of movement you are on. Then tonight, as I was about to log off I saw your post from today and I was so saddened for you. I know that I am no one in your world other than a stranger, but know I get it (as so many others do). Whoever that pivotal person in one’s life is (albeit a parent, sibling, best friend, grandparent, or whatever “title” they are deemed) the transition through the loss is a long one regardless of how complete your relationship felt at the end. It leaves a huge hole inside that slowly over time will heal and be filled up; but never forgotten.
    Your mind will run the gamut between every joyous moment you had with that person and will now crave desperately to repeat…to every moment you deem a preserved disappointment you feel was a result of some unfulfilled “thing or opportunity” that slipped by for “whatever” reasons there were, justified or not. I encourage you to just keep reminding yourself to put those feelings aside until the rawness you are in at the moment passes and you are a bit stronger.
    As a person who has been where you are in this instance, both from a great loss and that insidious disease…. I can tell you by YEARS of experience that: A) Time does help heal the pain of the loss and make the memories of her even more joyous….just don’t forget to breathe while your healing!, B) I have no doubt that ‘Nanny’ had NO REGRETS when it came to you, and while England may have been where she started her life out….where her life took her was to you. And all she REALLY cared about was YOU, her children, her grandchildren (if there were more), above all else. I can promise that for her, there was NO regret about that. C) She lived to see your success (Alzheimer’s or not)…and regardless of how much bigger your success grows to (which it will)…she was a part of it from the beginning, and she will continue to be throughout your life. There will never be a time you don’t still tell her your stories in your heart…just as you have done all your life. You will find yourself still asking her questions, and one day you’ll feel as though you are hearing her answers again (because you will be…her spirit will never be far from you!).
    As to taking a break from blogging or ANYTHING else you feel an obligation to. Don’t worry, when you are ready to blog again consistently…you will. Your fans and admirers will still be here. I know I will. Just take your time to heal without pressure.
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    A new fan and admirer,
    Karen Ehrenberg
    P.S. I lost my “everything” person when I was 16; and then I lost both my dad & father-in-law to that hideous disease your nanny had, just a few years back. I know it is hard. But now her spirit is free to soar again, and is free to hug you again.

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  34. I'm really sorry. You are completely validated taking leave :-) I love the picture of the two of you.

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  35. I'm so sorry for your loss...Alzheimer's is a really cruel horrid disease...

    I hope you can keep her alive in your heart and feel her love always...

    *HUGS*

    Lisa

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  36. Hi there,

    I am really sorry to read about your loss, no words could ever replace the person that went away.

    This post brought a lot of sadness to me, as I still miss my Grand Ma, after all these years. But it also reminded me that I had become the man that I am today, because of who she was, and the help she provided me with.
    So strangely enough, I am thanking you for this post.

    Have a nice day,
    Me.

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  38. Dear Amanda, What a lovely tribute to your Nanny<3

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  39. The best tribute you can give to Nanny is to take all of her fabulous traits and incorporate them into who you are.

    Thank you for sharing, Amanda.

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  40. I think you did an excellent job telling us how much she meant to you. I am so very sorry for your loss.

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  41. I am so sorry to hear about your Nanny. I just visited my grandma yesterday. She has Alzheimer’s too, and she's in a memory care unit. I know I won't have her much longer and that there's nothing I can do about it, but I am still dreading the day that I lose her completely. My grandma was a big part of my life too. She and my grandfather, who I lost a year ago to cancer, had a lake house that we spent our summers at. There are so many memories that are reflected on with tears now. I just hope that one day I can look back and only feel the joy of those moments. I hope the same for you and the memories you have of your Nanny.

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  42. This post broke my heart. I'm truly so sorry for your loss. You got to know and be friends with your grand mother, I didn't really had a good chance, I lost both of my grand mothers. I'm really sorry you couldn't take her to England, or that your kids will never get to know her. I have the same feeling. Be strong Amanda.

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  43. I'm so very sorry for your loss.Just hold on to all your precious memories and cherish them in your heart.Praying for you and your family.

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  45. I am so very sorry for your loss. It's never easy, whether it's sudden or gradual. Loss is loss, it takes time to heal.
    The one thing that kept me going after my mother's death was to remember that she wouldn't have wanted me to only remember the one day that she died. She had lived for 45 years. Those 45 years she lived meant way more then that one day she died. I still think about the day she died, and i still cry, but I also remember the days she lived & smile.

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  46. I am so sorry for you loss, Amanda! It sounds liike you were a special blessing in her heart that she will hold dear for eternity.I have lost my mother and the other mother in my life afterwards, my maternal grandmother. I talk to them more now than ever. Tell her everything. She is listening and so very proud of you!

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  47. Amanda, having Alzheimer's take ones beloved is possibly the hardest kind of grief journey one can ever be asked to take. You watch your beloved vanish so slowly, so inconsistently that trying to hold onto them through the course of the disease is like trying to grasp wishes as they are blown across a dandelion. In essence you die along with them hundreds of times as they slip so very far away. Those are haunting memories. Take your time and process all of it, every word, every memory, there is your best chance to heal well. Come to a place where it feels safe enough to leave the hurt part behind, so the memories of the love you shared can come to live in your present for the rest of your days.

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  48. I'm so sorry about your grandma, Amanda. You did her a great justice by conveying how wonderful she was, and how much you loved her. I hope I will be that loved by my grandchildren some day!

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