My Grandmother’s Cancer Changed Me

I was too young to understand grief


My life changed the day that my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, again. It was in 2006, when I was in high school. It was devastating, but I also felt like I was too young to know exactly how death and grieving really felt like. She once beat the disease the year before, but the cancer had grown back stronger the next.

She was my second mother throughout my childhood, as both my parents worked and I grew up with my grandparents. She was the kindest soul, and she made the best Korean food. She would never get mad at me even if I did something wrong, or say mean things even on accident. She raised my sister and me, since we were little babies. She picked me up from my bus stop every day and she was always eager to pack me lunch. She wanted to give me an allowance even if she had none to give.

My grandmother was different from my parents. My parents always wanted more from me, but my grandmother was always saying how wonderful I was. She supported my dreams, and she always told me I was doing a wonderful job. When I would paint something in art class and bring it home, she would tell me that I draw so well and would brag about it to everyone she knew. She loved me for who I was and was proud of me for just simply being her granddaughter.

However, my childhood went by so fast, including my grandmother’s life. It is as if it is all a part of a surreal dream, with blurred memories and random tidbits of happiness sprinkled into my fluctuating life. The parts that I remember about her are filled with love and joy. She was a very happy grandma and she was always wanting the best for her five children and many grandchildren.

The bond I had with my grandmother was irreplaceable and irreparable, and no one could ever make me feel connected to someone like that ever again. My grandmother was my role model and hero, and losing her was the worst part of my life. Sometimes I would have dreams about her, but she would never say anything. She would just walk by me or pass by in a car, without any words. Whenever she appears in my dreams and I wake up, I wish I could talk to her, even for five minutes. I wish I could hang out with her one last time. I wish I could buy her delicious food and spend more time with her than I had when she was alive.

She was the greatest person to me, but I feel that these days, memories of her are fading away. It has been over a decade since she has passed, but I guess a part of me is still trying to hold on to her. I am not sure if it is for the worst or for the best. I feel that if I was to linger onto her memories, I would not be letting her go. I feel scared that if I do let her go, she will be forgotten forever. However, I feel that what people say is true. Letting go means that I will be moving onto a new chapter in my life. I can finally let go of her from my past and grow emotionally and spiritually into a great person.

My grandmother may have passed away, but she will always be remembered. I know that her death has changed me into a stronger person, and her influential memories allow me to become a better person each day. I learned so much about myself through her death and what grieving really is, making me realize that people die, but we learn to grow more powerful through these experiences.

Her death allowed me to let go when my dog died, and made me toughen up for future situations. I learned to struggle less with my emotions throughout hard times, and was able to help my sister through her own emotional struggles.

When I see my grandmother again in the next life, I want to let her know that she helped me grow even after she died. I want to let her know that she helped me become the person who I want to be.