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  • Writer's pictureEmily Rojas

And I Complained the Whole Way There

My grandmother, Diane (aka Grammy), passed away suddenly earlier this year.

Maybe it's because I'm compelled to find life lessons in everything, but I've written before about how grief taught me to be a better friend. And this time I'm learning that grief hits you differently every time.

I thought initially, now I'm someone who has already lost someone. When my grandfather, Poppy, passed away in 2017, I had experienced losses before but only on the periphery. Now, I thought, I've done it already, I know the steps.

And beyond that, my life has been weirdly confusing and jam-packed this year anyway. There's been a lot of zigs when I expected zags, and it was easy to focus on the smaller unsettling things than the big one. It still is, if I'm being honest.

But, my attempts to rationalize and compartmentalize everything were ultimately fruitless. That's how I found myself crying at a Taylor Swift concert.

The thing is, I always knew I'd be crying at a Taylor Swift concert. It's another blog post for another day, but attending the Eras Tour was the culmination of my concert hopes and dreams after I had to sell my Red Tour tickets in 2013. Something which I regret very much to this day.

The thing I didn't know is exactly when I'd be crying during the concert. I assumed it'd be when she first entered the stage, or when the Reputation set started...

I forgot about one song on the set list. If you're a Swiftie, I'm guessing you already know exactly which song I'm referring to.


A song written about Swift's own late grandmother, Marjorie. The song even samples Marjorie's voice, as she was an aspiring singer herself before she passed away. Taylor sings, "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were singing to me now."

Something about me is that I hate crying in front of other people. Not to get too deep into my psychology on here, but I tend to assume the role of peacemaker, caretaker, stoic, everything-is-fine. In many of my relationships, I'd rather the other person be upset and me just be there, chilling, perfectly fine. Like, don't you dare worry about me, I will make all things be okay by first acting like they're all okay even when they're not.

So for me to cry at this concert was, in a word, unexpected. Even writing this down, I feel embarrassed, like I shouldn't tell you about my moment of weak vulnerability (which you already know is hard for me.)

Okay, back to the topic at hand, I'm in Mercedes-Benz arena, Taylor is singing Marjorie, and I'm crying.

Not just because that song is about loss, but because it feels like it was written about my loss specifically. Here's the part:

The autumn chill that wakes me up You loved the amber skies so much Long limbs and frozen swims You'd always go past where our feet could touch And I complained the whole way there The car ride back and up the stairs I should've asked you questions I should've asked you how to be Asked you to write it down for me

When I was probably 12 or so, my grandparents took me and my brother on a Disney Cruise. And I know how I'm going to sound when I say this, but bear with me... I complained the entire time.

My little brother is so outgoing and likeable, but he was also young enough for the kids' hangout (aka babysitting) play place. He instantly fit in there, and probably made countless friends and fun memories. I was just slightly too old for the kids, and the absolute youngest you could possibly be for the "teen" area, which terrified me. I spent most of the cruise in the room watching (I am not kidding) The Bee Movie maybe 40 times.

And I complained! I hated that the cruise didn't have Wi-Fi, so I couldn't contact my parents. I hated the amount and frequency of pictures Grammy made us take at every landmark. I hated that my brother ditched me for the fun kids club, and I hated that I was so shy I couldn't stand the thought of socializing with strange teens. And I complained so much, I'm sure Grammy regretted ever taking us on a cruise.

The thing about being 12 is you don't realize yet how limited your time is with people.

When I was writing my grandmother's obituary, I found out for the first time that she was valedictorian of her class, that she was captain of the cheer squad, and that she passed the Bar Exam on her very first try.

Thinking back to that cruise, all I can think is, "I wish I had asked you questions. I wish I had asked you how to be."

I don't love to focus on regrets, and I don't think of this as a regret, necessarily. I guess I just wish I had the perspective at 12 that I have now at 27.

I actually don't think there's a life lesson in this. It's more of just a self-reflection and a tribute to the person who was probably my #1 or #2 fan (competing only against my other grandmother).

She was someone who never bragged about herself, which is why there are so many of her accomplishments that I didn't know about until after she was gone. She was so uniquely weird and funny, I can't think of anyone else like her.

She, along with my grandfather, took me to Europe after I graduated from high school. Yes, incredibly, she dared to take me on another trip after I was (probably) super annoying on the Disney Cruise. It was such a formative experience, and birthed in me a whole new love for travel and French cuisine. While we were there, she would describe every tiny thing as a "God wink."

The bus tour started exactly when it was scheduled to? God wink. Delicious food at a five-star rated, incredibly fancy restaurant? God wink. Finding a fish and chips stand in the heart of London? God wink.

My dad and I would gently poke fun at these God winks, but I've realized that she actually believed all of those little, mundane things were little gifts from God. That was her faith, so personal and pure and real, that God was sending little winks all throughout the day.

What I'm saying is, grief is a complex journey, one that cannot be neatly categorized or anticipated. It was one thing for one loss several years ago, and it's a different thing for me now.

If it has to be wrapped up neatly in a life lesson, I think I can be grateful for the wisdom that comes with growing up. Because the week before she passed, Grammy came to visit me in Chattanooga. I didn't know it would be the last time I would see her, but we went out to dinner, we talked, we took pictures, and I didn't complain once. I didn't even see a reason to, which my 12-year-old grumpy, angsty self would not be able to comprehend.

I think I can be grateful for 27 years with a grandmother who truly loved me. Who invested in me, taking me on trips and paying for more than a decade of piano lessons. Who walked down the aisle as a "flower granny" at my wedding. Who showed up to every graduation, awards ceremony, and recital for my entire life.

In the end, I think loss is ultimately about reflecting, remembering and sharing stories about the person who's gone. And maybe, sometimes, that means crying at a concert or wishing you'd done things differently. Whatever it takes to keep the memory of the person you loved alive a little bit longer.

I almost feel like I should apologize for this post, because I am struggling to think of a way to wrap it up in some neat bow. I even asked ChatGPT how I should end this blog post, but it was not at all helpful.

I think there's value in sharing our experiences, even if there's not a neat and tidy life lesson or allegory at the end. This is just how I'm feeling right now, it's complicated and hard and beautiful, and it's life. So thank you very much for reading, and I hope you've taken something away from these convoluted thoughts that took me way too long to write down. Thank you, sincerely, thank you.

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