Posted in Grief


It sat in a block on the sideboard, heavy and foreign.

My grandmother’s cerulean eyes sparkled as I peeled off my layers.


“I have so many fun things planned for us,” she said.

She always did.

Every weekend.


“First we melt this big block of wax…”

Her excitement simply couldn’t be contained.


“Then, we’ll WHIP it! With the hand mixer!”

There in her entryway, these moments… our moments together… were all that mattered.

To both of us.

Coat, complete with mittens, connected by a long string that ran through the sleeves so that I wouldn’t lose them.

“And once it’s all fluffy, we’ll cover this form with it!”

Those eyes connecting with mine, her joy was just too big for her.

“Before it dries, we’ll sprinkle it with GLITTER! It will be a yule log for the table!”

This is how our winter weekends began. Yule log or Christmas trees made from last season’s J.C. Penny catalog.

The weekends stretched before us, just waiting to be filled with projects and the kind of love that filled her house so full that I’m certain it leaked from beneath the doors and warmed the outside.

This is my second Christmas season without her.

Last year, grief turned everything to a muddy gray. The lights, the songs, the joy of Christmas were heavy and intrusive and my mere existance was set to auto pilot.

I thought I understood grief. I’ve lived a lifetime without my father. Grief has always occupied a space inside me that’s low and throbbing. My grief there from so early on, like a ring deep within a tree.

But this. This is different. This guts me.  There’s a stabbing pain that jars me when I least expect it.

When I see the perfect chunky silver glitter that I just know would glisten perfectly on whipped wax. Or when that Restoration Hardware tome cries out to be turned into a tree. In an instant, the pain in my chest is so intense that I have to sit down. And remember to breathe.

I thought I knew grief.

I thought it would fade and live alongside my grief over losing my father.

I suspect I was wrong.

Perhaps grief is like a snowflake. Each loss different from the next. Each individual crystal so amazingly unique.

Just one more day

Sometimes when I lay still, I’m seven again.

Laying in my bed at night, paralyzed with fear that my mother would die.

That my grandparents would die.

Because my father already had.

Death crept inside my chest and pulled in so tight that I could barely breathe.

“Mom… are you still awake?” I would call.

Sometimes once, more often five or six times, every five minutes or so until sleep finally settled over me and overpowered my fears.

Death and my anxiety have been lifelong partners.

When my grandmother passed away last month, I was on a plane within 23 hours of hearing the news.

We simply told Katie that I need to go to Maine… that I just needed to go home. No details. No grief. No death.

And I went home and grieved. My heart broke when I saw my grandmother and those old wounds reopened.

There have been nights since returning to California, when my mind won’t let me rest and I quiet my breathing enough to hear Craig’s.

And I get up and lay my hand on Katie’s chest, to feel the rise and fall. Then I go to Matthew.

This anxiety is mine and it’s as much a part of who I am as my smile, my blue eyes, my gratitude for the good in my life.

And I have been determined to keep that from Katie, my child who already carries the weight of the world.

Who worries about things she shouldn’t.

Who feels things too deeply.

No laying in bed at night for her, wracked with worry.


But last night, one the most-loved teachers at her small school passed away.


The letter I found in her backpack asks us to talk with our children to prepare them for next week, when the school will grieve as a whole.

This weekend, we will have the talk I’ve avoided for six years and six months.

The talk that I didn’t have, even as my whole fell apart last month.

We will tell her about death.

We will introduce her to the idea that it can come from nowhere and rob you of someone you love in an instant.

And my heart is breaking at the thought of it.


It’s 5 in the morning and I’m sitting on the tarmac in Sacramento.

Bound for Maine.

She called me nearly two weeks ago and left a message saying she just wanted to hear my voice. Everything was fine, she offered, knowing that I would worry otherwise.

My grandmother.

I meant to call her back.

I wanted to call her back. To hear her voice.

But, one day’s deadlines followed another day’s search for a new bathing suit for Katie, and another day of, well, life. Little fires that we all put out daily.

Each night, as I lay in bed, I remembered that I had forgotten to return her call and each night I vowed to call her the next day.

Because she would be there. She has always been there. Always.

Yesterday, always ended. She suffered a massive heart attack in her sleep and my chance to call her back… to hear her voice… evaporated.

So now, I sit here. Waiting to go and be there for her funeral. And I am filled regret and such profound sorrow.

If you owe someone a phone call… a letter… a visit, don’t wait for tomorrow.

Because there are no guarantees that there will be another tomorrow.

Thank you, Craig, for scooping me off the floor when I got the news.
Thank you for knowing that I had to go home… had to be there.
Thank you for immediately researching last-minute flights and for securing my travel when I could do nothing but sob.
Thank you for always being who I need in any given moment.

Lost words

The text came from nowhere, jarring me from present to past in an instant.

Words, from Maine to California.

From my brother…

Cleaning out mom’s attic. Were u ever looking for your dad’s old Vietnam diary?

No… I wasn’t looking for it.

Because I didn’t even know it existed.

I’ve spent my life wishing for something… anything… that could help me to know him in some way and in an instant, that became possible.

K. found some stuff. i’ll set it aside n ship it 2 u.

How did I not know it even existed? Did I ever ask my mom? Did she forget she had it? Is there something between those covers that she didn’t think I was ready to read?

Everything I know about my dad has been told to me by someone else… filtered through their own experiences and love for him.


Though I’ve longed to know what my dad thought of me… of being a parent… of how he viewed his world, I’m preparing myself for much less.

Yet, somehow, maybe more.

Maybe it will be filled with what he ate, music he loved, places he visited.

Maybe I’ll find clues to who he was. Hints at the way he and I are alike… the parts of who I am that are hardwired… handed to me at birth, before he could teach and influence me.

I’ve longed to find some tangible thread to connect us.

Waiting for my brother to mail to me the very thing that I’ve grieved the non-existence of is truly excruciating.

I didn’t ask him what it says. I won’t because I can’t.

Hearing his words over the phone would cheapen them, somehow.

Even if they simply read, “It was hot today. Had a ham sandwich for lunch.”

Somehow, even the simplicity of that will be enough.

But, now I wait.


I heard crying even before I saw it. Katie’s cries carried down the stairway…

Mommy! Matthew broke his Buzz Lightyear Christmas ornament!

In her hands, she held Buzz. In three pieces. Matthew trailed behind, with a look of guilt on his tiny face and tears in his eyes.

It’s okay, Mommy will fix it, I promised.

And I could see immediately that she doubted my ability to put Buzz back together again.

It won’t work, Mommy. It’s totally broken. continued

About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
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