My Nana passed away on January 1st. Even writing that makes my eyes burn and my chest tighten. She was the best person ever. She was my best friend and a huge part of our community. I could write entire novels about how much she meant to me and everyone else but that’s not why I’m writing.

I’m new to grief. I’ve been blessed that this is my first real life altering loss. And that’s what it’s been. Life altering. It knocks the wind out of me and has left a giant hole in my heart that, if I’m not careful, threatens to swallow me whole. It’s a testament to Nana that she created our family to be as close as we are. That we have developed relationships that come together and lean on each other is because of her and Papa.

The day after her burial my cousin and I went to put the flowers from her memorial on her headstone. I would have never thought it would be a peaceful place for me but that day I found such peace in being there. The cemetery she’s at is beautiful. It’s quiet and lovely and I’ve started walking there once a week. I park at my mother in laws and walk about a mile to the cemetery. It’s become healing in a way to visit her and talk to her there.

I understand the cemetery and even visiting loved ones headstones is not for everyone. Not everyone finds it peaceful. Some think it’s creepy or that they don’t feel their loved ones there. I understand all of that. But for me it’s spiritual and I love having a specific spot where I can go visit her.

Today I took a friend with me. It was really nice to share my little ritual with someone else and we got talking about all the other headstones and people who have passed. We walked a few laps around the whole cemetery and I showed her Nana but also a few other people I know who are there. We talked about the lives of people there. Stories that are left untold, secrets people took with them, memories they shared with people who lived on and memories that have long sense been forgotten.

You see the flowers on peoples headstones. The trinkets that people leave that hold sentimental value. You see the ones that haven’t been visited in a while by anyone other than the cemetery grounds keeper. Those are the ones I like to visit while we’re out there. To stop by and hope they know someone is still thinking of them. Even though I’m a stranger I’m thinking of their lives.

Nana had a poem in her desk we found after she passed. It’s called The Dash. The premise is that on your headstone it reads “birthday – death date” but that dash in the middle is life. It’s how we live our lives, how we spend that time of the dash, that matters. So while I’m wandering around visiting everyone (most of my time is with Nana though sorry) it’s their dash I’m thinking of.

I have so many questions for all of these people! There are so many amazing stories that will be left untold. It sparks my overactive imagination and here’s what I wish: I wish everyone could write a memoir before they passed. Things they want people to know after they passed, things that were important to them, things they wish they could have said but didn’t, advice (can you even imagine the advice some people have to share but won’t have the chance!!) and really what their dash meant to them.

Here’s where my imagination goes wild. Everyone puts all that info a memoir and then it’s preserved at their grave site for people like me to come and read it. Oh the things we could learn!!!

I love you Nana. I pray my dash is as amazing as yours was. Anything I accomplish is because of you.

This was written by my cousins to Nana. I have no better words than these.