The Day My Heart Shattered


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We had just successfully thrown our Nana the best surprise 90th birthday party ever.  Her friends and family gathered from all over to celebrate her vivacious spirit and loving personality.  Since she always spoke about going to Hawaii but wasn’t able to travel, we brought Hawaii to her in the form of leis, tropical flowers and grass skirts.  We laughed, we cried, we spoke about how lucky we were to have the most incredible lady in our lives and how we would be celebrating the next 10 years together.  Little did we know that less than 2 years later we would all get together again, this time, at her funeral.

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My Nana, Alice, was a beautiful woman with a rare sense of humor.  She didn’t try to be funny, it just came naturally to her.  I’ll never forget our trip to a local department store when I was in my early 20’s.  I was in the underwear department and found these glow-in-the-dark undies with cat faces on them.  I thought they were amusing, so I brought them over to my Nana to ask her if I should buy them.  She looked at them and without hesitation said (very loudly), “You know why there are cats on them?  Because you know what they call ‘it’ now, right?”  They call it a pussy.”  I’m sure it wasn’t as loud as I remember, but it was like the music on the overhead speakers had suddenly shut off and the entire store stopped what they were doing to try to find the voice that just yelled the p word.  All eyes on us.  I was mortified.  I literally tried to hide my 20-something body under the clothing racks, very unsuccessfully.  Looking back, it was one of the funniest memories and it brings us all a laugh each time we talk about it.

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Nana was the person that we all went to when we needed something. Whether it was an ear, a hand, a laugh or a shoulder to cry on.  She was the first phone call I always made when something happened, good or bad.  She would tell me about her daily bingo experience and how she was the big winner. We would joke about the jackpot which was usually around $2 and all the things she couldn’t buy with it.  And sometimes we would talk about absolutely nothing.  It was just the idea that she was there that made everything in my life that much better, no matter how bad it was.

We had lost my Papa in 2004 and while she never lived on her own, she totally rocked the widow-life.  She made so many new friends, played cards and bingo and really enjoyed life.  She loved when her family came to visit and was a ray of sunshine to all those that knew her.  She had an honesty about her that was refreshing.  She was my person and I never imagined I would lose her so soon.

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I remember the phone call like it was yesterday.  My family told me that I needed to get to hospital because she didn’t have much longer to live.  Just a week or so earlier, she had choked at dinner and while an aide gave her the heimlich maneuver to clear her passageway, she accidentally broke my Nana’s spine in the process.  The pain was just too much and they couldn’t operate on her because of her age.  It was no longer a matter of when she would heal, but instead, when she would pass away.

Our lives were shattered.   She was healthy.  She had years left and they were suddenly taken from her in an instant.  I kept trying to see the positives in the situation.  She would wake up to eat or be awake long enough to make a noise on the other end of the phone.  I kept telling everyone she was getting better. I wanted her to get better.  I needed her to get better.  But sadly, she didn’t.  And the day she left us, my heart broke into a million pieces.

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I saved all of her voicemails and found myself listening to them over and over and over again.  They were all pretty much the same… telling me it was Nana (as if I didn’t know), asking a question I couldn’t answer because it was a voicemail, followed by “I love you”.  We never ended any conversation without it.  It’s the one thing I’m grateful for because there was never any question as to how we felt about each other.

Her funeral was a blur.  My grief had taken over and I just wanted her to jump out of the coffin and tell me that it was all a joke.  I didn’t prepare anything to say because if I had, I would have had to admit that she was really gone.  I stood in front of our family and friends, at my cousin’s side and cried.  I know I said something but I don’t remember what.  I was angry.  We shouldn’t have been there.  She should’ve lived longer. I just wanted to throw myself onto the floor like an angry toddler and throw the biggest tantrum of my life.

I watched my youngest daughter, only three at the time, as she hung onto the side of the barrier and watched the coffin get lowered to the ground.  She had no idea what was going on, but she did understand that she couldn’t see her Nana again.  While I was grateful that my kids had all known and loved Nana, I was angry that she wouldn’t be there for their graduations, for their weddings, for the births of her great-great-grandchildren.  I felt robbed for them.  I had decades with her but they wouldn’t.  It wasn’t fair.

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This year it will be 2 years since she was taken from us.  I’m still not over it. I still pick up the phone to call her.  I still get angry when I realize that she’s gone.  My heart is still shattered and can never be repaired. But it’s important that I share as much as I can about her and how much she meant to all of us.  She was a rare bird and we were so lucky to call her ours.

I will always be grateful for all that she did for me.  She was the greatest Nana I could have ever asked for.  Although I miss her more than I could ever explain, I know that she continues to watch over me and my family and I know that one day, we will all be together again.  I love you Nana, a bushel and a peck.

We threw our Nana a 90th birthday party. Little did we know that less than 2 years later we would all get together again, this time, at her funeral.

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I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. Pingback: If You'd Lived to Be 100 - The Super Mom Life

  2. Oh lovely this is heartbreaking. This post is so beautiful and a tribute to your nana. Sending love x

  3. I recently lost my nana, too. I called her ‘nani’. It was great reading about your nana. She sounds like a warm and lovely woman brimming with love for you.

  4. Sorry for your family’s loss. I know how it feels and we know she’s in good hands now. Your Nana looks so happy with her life.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. She sounds like she was an amazing woman, and I’m sure you’ll be able to cherish those memories forever.

  6. She sounded like a wonderful lady and I’m so sorry for your lost. You all loved her very much and this is a heartfelt tribute x

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. It seems cliche but time is a great healer and you will appreciate all the wonderful memories with a smile rather than a tear soon enough

  8. So sorry for your loss! you are very blessed to have been able to have such a wonderful relationship with her while she was in your life!! A lot of people don’t have a relationship as beautiful as yours with their own Nanas

  9. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your memory of her in this way! She will forever live on through your heart, and this piece of writing!

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful lady and looked like she had a fun and loving personality. Sending prayers to you and your family.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to your beautiful Nana. You made beautiful memories together that you’ll cherish forever and share with your children. I pray you find comfort in the memories you created with her.

  12. This is a beautiful tribute. I lost my grandma about 8 years ago. I’m so sorry for your loss

  13. I’m so sorry to hear about your Nana. Not everyone has that special relationship with their grandparents or even other family members. It’s wonderful that you had such a lovely grandparent in your life.

  14. I am so sorry for your loss. I really can’t imagine how it feels like but I can feel the pain losing someone you love.

  15. So sorry for your loss; it sounds like she was a wonderful and beloved member of your family!

  16. I’m pretty close to my grandmother too and she was also taken away from me. It’s so sad as she was there in all of my life’s major events. I miss her too!

  17. Losing a loved one you’ve had for so long is hard. I went through something similar recently as well.

  18. Sorry for your loss, I know loosing loved ones are not that easy to cope with . I lost my dad this December. Still I feel he is there with my sister.

  19. Going through a loss of a loved one, can be difficulty, but with prayer and time, you can overcome the grief.

  20. What a joyful woman and beautiful smile! From what you’ve described, she had a beautiful life and was loved very much, which is all anyone can ask for.

  21. What a moving tribute to your lovely Nana. I feel like I now know her, so thank you for sharing a piece of her with us today. She seemed like a very special lady to all who knew her. I am so sorry for your loss.

  22. I am so very sorry for your loss. Losing your grandparents is one of the hardest things that one can go through. Stay strong.

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  23. I am very sorry for your loss. My mom passed away last June and your Nana sounds alot like my mom. We never forget and the pain is real. It is learning to live without them that is the hardest. What a beautiful tribute to your Nana. May your memories help soothe your soul and comfort you in your heartbreak.

  24. I am deeply sorry for your loss. You nana sounds like she was a wonderful person. I would have loved to have had a relationship like that with my grandmother.

  25. I am so sorry for your loss. Your post is filled with love and deep close bound your shared. I can almost feel your pain through my screen. She seams such a wonderful person, you are happy to her in your life. Love

  26. Your Nana seemed like a joy to be around. I am so sorry about your loss. I lost my Mom last summer too and we missed her.

  27. I am very sorry to hear about your Nana’s passing. Those voicemails will be your golden treasure to remember Nana.

  28. Your Nana was so beautiful. And I know that she is way happier than ever. We are so sorry for your lost. And i just so love that lovely tribute.

  29. This is just heart breaking to see. It’s so hard to pass thru times like this. Nana is in a better place

  30. Sorry for your loss. Your grandmother looks like such an amazing person. Losing someone is never easy.

  31. I’m so sorry about your Nana. I am glad you got to throw her a great party though and celebrate her while she was still here, I bet she had an amazing time!

  32. She looked such an imposing personality. No wonder you loved her so much. Pray for her. And you take care.

  33. Heather, I am truly so very sorry for your loss. You clearly had such a wonderful bond with your Nana and she would be so proud of the beautiful tribute you gave to her with this post. Sounds cheesy I know, but she 100% will always be with you in your heart.

  34. It is always sad to lose someone. But we must always keep our heads up and reminisce the good memories we have with the person. Sorry for your loss.

  35. I’m really sorry for your lost. I lost my grandmother last year and she was only 81. It hurts a lot to lose someone so close to you but I believe both our grandmothers are in better places now. Bless you

  36. Sounds like she was a delightful woman and you shared many memories together. So sorry for your loss!

  37. I think it’s lovely she got to spend her 90th birthday with loved ones in Hawaii. What a great memory you can forever cherish.

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  38. What a horrible way for her to go. So full of life and doing well, then a simple accident ends it all. I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds amazing.

  39. What a lovely looking lady. She looks full of kindness and warmth and amazing on her 90 years. You must miss her so much.

  40. What an amazing woman you Nana sounding like and to make it to 90 wow! I miss my Gran so very much, I wish everyday I had one more with her.

  41. Ahhh, that is so incredibly heartbreaking. I know I never fully recovered from the loss of my grandpa. My heart goes out to you!

  42. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your nana seemed and looked like a lovely lady. She was clearly loved very much.

  43. Keeping her so deeply in your memory is a true sign of your love for her. You are very lucky to have such an amazing relationship with a grandparent.

  44. I am sorry for your loss. She sounds a lot like my grandmother. The memories you have won’t go away. Grandmothers are so special and in a league of their own.

  45. I am so sorry for your loss. I am remembering my grandmother with great fondness right now. Hugs.

  46. Oh no! I have a post on my site today about grandmas and how to treat them on mothers day. Make sure you do something she loves this year to keep her memory alive

  47. What a beautiful lady and what beautiful words to remember her by. It’s so hard to lose a loved one. When my mom died unexpectedly a few years ago, I didn’t think I could move forward. Thankfully, we will see our loved ones again one day.

  48. Oh I’m so sorry for you’re loss. It looks like you had lots of fun at her party though and she looks so happy! It’s so hard when they leave and leave such a big gap behind 🙁 I hope looking back on these beautiful memories brings some comfort x x

  49. Losing someone we love so dearly is equally painful as missing them. I am still grieving from losing my baby girl and I will always be as grief is just another name for love. Condolences to you and your family, know that you are loved and she will always be watching over you and your family.

  50. I just want to thank you for this! My 92 year old grandmother is my world! She’s always been my everyday and nowadays it’s difficult due to her dementia. I love how you’ve honored your Nana with this post. Continue to lift her legacy for the world to see!

  51. My condolences on her demise. You’ve had such a loving nana. Cherish all the good memories you spent with her !!! Don’t forget that there is a day when each of us will be leaving this place similarly.

  52. This post touched me. The other day, my parents shipped me a box of things for my new apartment. In it were things I hadn’t seen in decades that belonged to my grandmother. I opened a package so swirled in bubble wrap, I could only see its shape. When I got to it, I caved halfway over and started sobbing. It is the ceramic wall hanging that hung in her dining room since the day I was born. I could taste her apple cake, her sponge cake, her plum cake, and every other magical and delicious thing I ate beneath it. I will always miss her, but like you, I’m just so very glad I had her.

  53. This was very touching! Your nana seemed to be a woman full of life and wisdom. I am sorry for your loss. Hope you still feel her presence among you.

    Em from

  54. This made my heart sad. I am sure she is already you guardian angel now. I love how you share your story and memories with her. Surely she has been blessed having you all in her life. For sure she will always be remembered and will always be in your hearts.

  55. It is so sad when we lose a loved one especially one that is so bright in character. I am so sorry for your loss but you seem to have a lot of memories to keep you strong.

  56. Oh my gosh she sounds absolutely amazing. I can certainly understand how much you would miss her. I’m so happy you have all those wonderful memories with her.

  57. She looks like such a fun and wonderful woman. I am just glad she got to live a full and happy life with some amazing people.

  58. Sorry to hear about your loss of your nana. That’s great she lived so long. The grandparents in my husband’s family and mine both passed away at an earlier age.

  59. Your Nana sounds so incredibly amazing and it sounds like your relationship is very similar to the one my Nana and I had. She passed away a year ago and I miss her every second of every day. There is something so special about strong, intelligent, fun loving Nanas, isn’t there?

  60. So sad and yet so sweet. She has left you with sweet memories. A loss of a near and dear one is always difficult to come to terms with. It takes a long time to heal but a vacuum always remains. May her sweet soul rest in peace.

  61. It’s so hard to lose a loved one. It sounds like your Nana was an amazing woman who gave you many wonderful memories.

  62. I’m so sorry for your loss! I lost my mom in 2001, and then both my grandparents within a week of each other in 2004. It’s been really hard, so I know the feeling all too well. So hard when we lose ones we love and cherish.

  63. Your Nana sounds like she was an amazing woman. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my grandparents 9 and 10 years ago (Gran went first, and Pop couldn’t hold on long without her). I’m still not over it. I don’t think it’s something you ever really get over, especially when your grandparents are such a huge part of your life. Sharing stories about her helps me, too. There are days where I can talk about her all day long and not cry, and still days where just I can’t even get out the word “Granny” without choking up.

  64. I am so sorry for your loss, she seemed like a very loving and caring woman. It’s definitely hard losing someone you really love.

  65. She sounds so amazing, I can see why you miss her so much. It broke my heart when my grandma passed away as well. They’re such a joy to have in your life, it feels as if you always have someone to run to.

  66. I am so sorry about your loss. I am very close to my Grandma as well, she is 92 and struggling with dementia. Still a feisty lady though, which I love. I hope that you can take comfort in knowing your Nana had a full life filled with a lot of love, which is what we all hope for.

  67. I am so very sorry for your loss, for your entire families loss. Your Nana was an awesome woman I can just tell! She had such a spark! Her eyes tell volumes and I feel like I would have been lucky to have met her!
    Big Huggs!!!

  68. Oh no, I’m sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful woman. My Nana Jo is 96 and I hope she lives a long while.

  69. My heart completely breaks for you – but 92 years old, she lived a long and adventurous life, I am sure!

  70. This made me cry reading it. I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing my grandmother was the hardest thing I have ever gone through and 3 years later, I’m still not over it.

  71. The pain of losing a loved one never fades. My grandma passed the day my kids graduated from preschool. Preschool. Yet, I miss her as if it were y’day. This year my kid will graduate high school and I’ve no doubt I’ll think of her and wish she were there. I’ll shed a few tears but I will be thankful for those laughs we shared as she met each of her great grandchildren. I pray you hold the memories you shared with her in your heart forever. There’s comfort there.

  72. I am so sorry for your loss! Is heartbreaking to lose someone so close and so full of life suddenly. I pray that your family has found comfort in all the memories of her and her fun-loving character.

  73. What a wonderful tribute to your nana. Grandparents can have such a wonderful influence over their grandchildren. I hope my grandchildren think as much of me as you did your nana.