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She is Gone

I lost a piece of my family and myself on May 29th, 2020. But I don't want that to be the end of our story. This is an ode to remembering and loving the ones we lose, even long after they are gone, because they never really leave us. 

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My grandmother loved birds, she would sit and watch them for hours. There are tons of different birds in the backyard of my house in Pennsylvania and whenever my grandmother would visit, we would watch them together every morning, and say good morning to the world.

 

On May 29th, 2020 a red robin flew into our house. We couldn't save it from our 20 foot ceilings and it ultimately hit its head several times, smearing blood on the ceiling. The bird eventually fell. I caught it in my arms and laid it to rest under a tree outside.

 

Later that day my grandmother passed away.

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December 29th, 2019 my grandmother had a severe stroke. She wasn't able to move or speak and we were not sure how much she understood. All I wanted to do was hold her hand and be there for her. I didn't want to go back to college because I was afraid something would happen when I went away.

I came home from school on March 13th, 2020, sad to have left my classmates but excited at the silver lining of spending the extended spring break with my grandmother, every day by her side. I didn't realize that was that not only not the case but the next time I would see her would only be to say goodbye, for good.

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My grandmother passed away in May of 2020 and even though COVID was heavily present, my family still needed to follow the tasks to be completed after someone passes away. COVID made steps like cleaning out her house or having her funeral more complicated.

My grandmother's house was the center of everything, just like she was.

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Taking her things out, one by one, and then seeing the space empty hurt almost as much as the moment she died.

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Ever since my grandmother died, I've kept expecting her to walk back into my life. I keep expecting to pick up the phone and see that she is calling. The hardest thing about the disorientation of this whole last year is accepting that when things are normal, she will still be gone.

She is Everywhere

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She is Loved

Judy Graduation from Nursing School
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My family is so lucky to have photos documenting our lives. My grandfather was a photographer with a camera attached to him at all times. One of the things that hurt but helped the most was looking through photos. I knew my grandmother as a grandmother but her life was so much more than that. She was a registered nurse for over 30 years and worked at a school for kids with disabilities. She was a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother. She was an honorary alumnus of Penn State University because of her dedication to that school. She was a goofball, a teacher and the kindest person I’ve ever known.

Feel free to move the images around and look through our family album

I never realized that not every family is like this, but I would consider my cousins to be my second siblings. We were raised together by my aunts and uncles and my grandparents. Every weekend we were together growing up, we were each other's best friends. My grandmother was the center of that, the north star connecting us all together. 

She is Treasured

I never expected grief to physically hurt, until I found myself unable to breathe, silently screaming in absolute pain of her not existing anymore.

 

Then I think about the pain she had to go through, being a nurse and knowing she was dying but not being able to do anything to stop it. 

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Taken by my grandfather in approx. the 1950s.

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Summer of 2006, Avalon New Jersey

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By going through the things in her house we were going through our memories of her. We all found things in her house we connected to whether it be jewelry, clothing or other keepsakes. Having these things around us allows a small piece of her to always be there.

Even before the grandkids, my family spent all of their time together. We are a family constantly surrounded by music, love and laughter.

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My grandmother was always listening and singing along, applauding every performance no matter how chaotic or silly. It is painful now to look over our shoulders to see we are missing our number one supporter, but she would want us to keep going.

She is Remembered

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One day this past winter, I was feeling really sad. I drove myself all the way over to New Jersey which is about an hour and a half round trip for me. I drove straight to the graveyard, got out of my car, walked the length to my grandparents' plot and just sat there.

 

I have very mixed feelings about graveyards especially due to the lack of my religious beliefs, but I didn't know exactly how to feel and that just felt right to do. I sat there sitting in the cold and crying for an unknown amount of time. I was so cold and sad and just wishing to be warm.

 

The sky was overcast but all of a sudden, the wind stopped, I looked up and the sun broke through the clouds. No sun was expected that day. It warmed up immediately. I have no real religious beliefs, but something about that day was special. I thought about it all the way home, trying to understand, but somethings I don't think we deserve to understand.

She was more than my grandmother, she was my friend.

My grandmother always told me not only to thank people, but to do so kindly. Those are the words I try to embody everyday. 

One of the last days I spoke to her, I asked if I could photograph her and we could tell her story together. She had a stroke a few days later and was never able to do so. 

One of my biggest regrets was asking too late, until I started this project. She and I were able to tell her story through memories and photos and I couldn't have done it without her. 

I was never able to thank her for everything she did for my family. With this project, I can start to. 

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 Thank you kindly, Grandma

Listen to the music that inspired and helped me drive this project. 

Thank you to the following artists for inspiration:

Romy Weidner

Michele Abercrombie

Jacob Moscovitch

Emily Elconin

Gabriella Baéz

Amy Parish

Thank you to my VIS 425 classmates, Professor Mike Davis, my amazing editing partner Sarah Lee, and my family for supporting me through this project. 

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Thank you kindly

for hearing our story, feel free to share yours with us

Thank you for sharing your memories of your loved ones

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