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The Passing of a Centenarian.

My Nana wasn’t the first 100-year-old (or older) that I’ve lost.

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She wasn’t even the second, but it was pivotal. There is something about losing a grandmother and also about losing the last blood relative of the generation two above my own. I don’t just mourn the loss of her. I mourn the loss of her husband, my grandfather, all over again. It’s been two years. I mourn the loss of my childhood which now seems finally gone, as if it were hanging on by one loosening thread. One brilliant, vivid and wonderful, but loosening thread. How long was it loosening?

It was wrapped tightly around my life, and the lives of the generation before and after mine. It will always thread us together.

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What does it feel like, this death of a 100-year-old? What does it feel like to be attached to greatness, even two threads away.

Two stops behind on this map of life.

– This grief feels like a heavy coat that you can take off in the warmth of your children and friends, but then you need to put it back on in quiet moments of cold and pain. This grief is like the wind and sun on a temperate day – hot when the sun is hot and instantly cold when the clouds come without warning.

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– This experience is not tragic, but it is very, very sad.

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– Death of a 100-year-old is people telling you how lucky and blessed you were to have her as long as you did.

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– It’s having her through every memory of your life thus far. It’s being born when she was a spring chicken close to 70. It’s having her meet her great-grandchildren.

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– It’s knowing she’s that she led a big and long life. It’s knowing that it should make you feel better and comfort you during the darkest parts of the night, but it doesn’t. It just doesn’t. Yet.

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– You feel inclined to celebrate 100 years but it will never seem long enough. And nothing ever seems like it could be long enough, if endings still come when you think they won’t. Or you blissfully forget for a long while that things have to change.

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– It’s knowing that despite love and longevity, the end still has to come to separate the sweet moments, days and years from one another. The end still has to separate the sweet people from each other.

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(My sister, my mom, me in her lap, MY great-grandmother, my Nana Jane)

– So many recent memories of breathing tubes and wheelchairs and chemical smells. You have to breathe in your kids and their youthful smells. You have to see their wonder and hear their laughter and know… that this is your world right now. It will go on with you, and not the same without you. You still have to wake up, live life, and give big love out generously. So generously.

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– It’s thinking that your paternal grandparents died tragically young, even though they lived well into their 80’s. It’s using age 100+ as a barometer of how long your parents and your in-laws should live. It’s the growing pains of the shifting of generations.

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I feel sad and let down, like a dream has died. Even though this story lasted longer and better than most life stories, it still ended. Even though this light burned brightly and powerfully. It still went out. It still had to end.

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126 Comments

  1. You always write the most beautiful posts, Tamara. My grandmother was my best friend and then I cared for her on my own (with Phoenix’s help) for her last 3 years. It was so very tough and I still miss her terribly. I love how you intertwine the generations. We send you so much love always for any hurt, lingering or otherwise, that pains you. You are so admired and appreciated by us ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Mike, this email was so funny because I had my time clock wrong on my blog and it posted at 3:00pm, even though I set it to midnight. So it was midnight somewhere! So your email let me know I made a mistake, but I’m glad I did. Let it run!
      Lots of love to you both, always.

  2. Not tragic, but very very sad. That’s exactly it. Your sadness is a testament to how much you loved your nana. No number of years is ever enough – we want the people we love to be with us forever. I hope your family (and 3! pets) are helping you have some not-sad moments. And on a completely different note – your sister’s look in that photo is priceless – she’s up to something!

    1. That’s what my mom always says – how we want everyone here at the same time, but circle of life yada yada. Not tragic, but very, very sad.
      I can’t believe the three pets thing. That will be a post, of course!
      My sister looks like that in 50% of our childhood photos! hmm…

  3. The way you write is so powerful and emotional. I felt like I was there for your journey and like I am here now for this sudden turn. It may not feel like it is time to celebrate, yet and that is understandable! I still miss my grandmother and it has been almost 8 years, but now, the sadness of a memory becomes a story that I get to share with my kids.

    1. I really appreciate that – I have to find ways to talk about what’s in my head. I just have to process this way. So when it’s read and understood, it’s like winning a gold star! Even if it’s just one person.
      My other grandmother passed away over ten years ago and sometimes it still feels like yesterday. I feel robbed.

  4. OH, Tamara – I feel the emotions pouring off my computer screen! I agree – 100 years is great but never long enough. Losing my grandparents was brutal – they are my childhood (the good memories), my young adult years (I lived with them in the summers), and thankfully a huge chunk of my adult life.
    It will always be hard to realize that your grandma is no longer here but there comes a point when it is just happiness that comes to mind when you think of her.
    I hope that your beautiful family brings you the joy you need in these next few weeks+ and that you allow the tears to fall when you need to! I’m sending you all the happy thoughts and hugs I can!!!

    1. I somewhat got to that point with my other grandmother – the thought of her brings happiness to me. It’s been awhile and it can still sting, of course. Sometimes terribly and sometimes just a little sadness but a lot of fondness and celebration for knowing her.
      Thank you for your beautiful words.

  5. Aww, was totally shedding a few tears reading this and seriously Tamara, we lost my grandmother, who wasn’t quite 91 the winter before I had Lily and I still get ready eyed and nostalgic when I think of her, too. The story does end, but the memories will live on forever. Trust me, I think of my both my grandparents often and they are always near and dear to my heart, always. Thinking of you and sending huge hugs once again.

    1. Aw, you’re the best. I was looking forward to your comment with this post because I knew you’d get it. And I knew you’d find it humorous that my time clock was so screwy. That’s why I get, right?

  6. I feel everything that you wrote here. My grandparents did not live nearly as long and my children have only met their great-grandfathers but even that little bit makes me happy. May their memories be a blessing.

  7. Tamara I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Your words are glorious and have enabled me to understand the extra loss I felt when my own Nanna died, and all my grandparents has passed. The end of an era, the closing of my chapter as a grandchild. Until this moments as I was caressed by your beautiful words, I had not fully grieved this finality. There is healing today for me thanks to you.

    1. You said it so perfect – the closing of your chapter as a grandchild. It’s an identity, you know? My dad’s parents are still alive but we’re not very close, sadly.

  8. Beautifully said sweet friend. There is nothing sweeter than a life well lived…. and nothing harder to swallow than watching it end. You so vividly described your loss, your love, and life here in and through your words and your photos. Just so powerful.

    I’d like to think your Nana has now greeted your grandad and they are gleefully happy together again. And as you know, I believe this is only the beginning for her. Life on this earth is fleeting. Even when it’s 100 years. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I’d like to believe that too. My grandmother really believed that, which helps me to have said goodbye. Knowing that maybe she wasn’t at all afraid.

  9. I keep thinking about those metaphors at the beginning of this post, comparing the grief to temperature changes. Feeling the warmth and then the chill. Feeling at peace and then sad again. Lives well-lived, for sure.

    1. It’s strange how it’s affecting me – very hot and cold without much in between. I realize it’s because it’s SO sad but also, I have two young and joyful kids. Plus a puppy and two kittens.
      It’s hard to be cold all the time..

  10. I’m sorry for your loss – but I’m glad you had so much time. And your children will have memories as well. A lovely tribute – though sad…you kept her spirit alive.

  11. This is really beautiful Tamara. These days I keep reflecting on life. As you know, my father in law has cancer and we are struggling with that. I have friends with cancer and it’s hard to wrap my head around it. Why? 100 years is a wonderful life, but it’s always too soon, isn’t it? Are we ever truly ready to say goodbye to our loved ones? Sending hugs your way.

    1. I’m so sorry. I have a friend – a VERY close friend – going in for a PET scan tomorrow. My thoughts are very with her. And you guys.

  12. It’s sad no matter how old. Sometimes it seems even sadder when a person does get to live such a long life. Surely they were with us for so long to make a difference in our lives. And they do. I hope you are comforted by the memories. Hugs to you, my friend.

    1. I really get that – it’s sadder because I knew her for much longer. I guess I thought she’d always be there.
      I’m in and out of comfort and sadness. It’s really quite a ride lately.

  13. Delirious am I, after a day and a half down in Brooklyn, but I had to read this and look at your wonderful pictures. I love Scarlet’s ‘once we pushed Nana Jane in a wheelchair’…how nice it is that they got to know each other. How fantastic to live to one hundred years old…! You were so blessed to have her in your life so long.

    1. Thank you! I get the delirium. If I didn’t have it so badly, I would have asked to meet you for lunch today in NY!
      Thank you for visiting. She made a whole book for my mom and that wheelchair page made me cry.

  14. Beautifully written! I can feel your emotions behind your words. Both my grandmothers are still with us. I wasn’t born yet when my maternal grandfather passed away. My paternal grandfather was my father’s step father and he’s the first person dear to me who passed away. I was the first grandchild so it was also heartbreaking. It’s really amazing that your grandparents witnessed so many precious events in your family including the birth of your kids. They’re people you’re going to treasure in your heart forever.

    1. I can’t believe all that my grandparents saw in their 100 years. I can’t even imagine. I hope we all get to experience such lucid longevity.
      My husband’s grandparents have all been gone for quite awhile. My father’s parents too. My dad’s parents are still alive, though!

  15. You are in my prayers. I don’t expect anything that I say or anyone else says to alleviate your sorrow and pain. Your feelings are your own and no one should discredit it.

    I did see your adorable kittens on Facebook. Please join me in the Crazy Cat Lady Club. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you.
      And yes! I guess I’m a member now but are we really members if we don’t have seven of them? I’m looking forward to seeing what develops with these two littles. They’re awfully cute.

  16. I was sobbing as I read this. My heart breaks for you and your family and all those who love Nana Jane. Whenever I read of someone’s loss I find myself reliving my own losses. I wonder if I will ever be able to write about caring for my mom during her last month, about her death and crying every single day since. If I do I hope I can write as bravely and honestly as you do.

  17. Hugs! Beautiful post Tamara! I wish my grandparents lived that long. They never saw my kids. I am pretty sure that they are looking at us from where they are. The longing never really goes away. We just get used to it.

    1. I’m pretty sure you’re right..
      You’re so right about the longing. And even if I had it all, I’d probably want even more generations to be with us – like MY great-grandparents.

    1. It’s funny how that is because I had them for a very long time and I’m very thankful about it. I just.. miss them even more because they’ve always been around.

  18. Endings are hard – whether they are expected or not; whether they come quickly or after a long time. I’ve been thinking of you and hopping you are doing o.k. Your word are beautiful. ((Hugs))

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! It comes and goes. I can be totally a mess or totally fine. There’s not a lot of room for in between with two kids, two kittens, and a puppy.

  19. One of the saddest parts about losing grandparents for me is that I my kids didn’t get more time to experience their love. I know everyones lives will end at some point but I wish that my kids had more time with their grandparents and great-grandparents that have passed.

    1. I vaguely remember my great-grandmother. I hope Scarlet will more vividly remember her own.
      It was powerful to have four living generations together at parties. I will miss that very much.

  20. “This grief is like the wind and sun on a temperate day โ€“ hot when the sun is hot and instantly cold when the clouds come without warning.” Your ability to put these feelings into words is amazing. This is exactly how it feels. Over the years I have had moments where the grief of the passing of loved ones have come in exactly like this…and then it passes once again and I’m back to my (mostly) bright self. And you are right, no matter the age it always hurts. Beautiful post as always, Tamara!

    1. I really appreciate that – my ability to put this into words is almost a method of survival. I have to explain it and get it out and so many of you understand and it’s healing.
      I think I have a (mostly) bright self too!

  21. My grandmother was 84 when she passed. She would have been 96 this year. I so wish she’d met her great-grandchildren. I am again, so very sorry for your loss, Tamara.

    1. I’m so sorry about yours. I’m making it through – so many reasons to be happy and celebrate. I do take the time to mourn daily, or almost daily, though.

  22. Beautiful words love – hope you’re coping well with the loss.. It’s inevitable, things change whether we like them or not. Sorry been out of it – this wordpress migration is finally coming together but took a lot of bitching at people. Take it one day at a time love and sending hugs your way -Iva

    1. I’m coping. And it’s interesting. With other great losses, I could be alone and cry for days. With the kids, I can’t do that but it’s also easy to find the happy in our days. Beautiful weather, Scarlet’s birthday party, two new kittens (more about that soon), the puppy, everything else.
      You haven’t seemed out of it. I mean you’re still here, aren’t you? Means a lot.

      1. Of course I’m here ๐Ÿ™‚ your blog I hit as much as I can weekly – I finally have everything imported in WordPress.com; took forever. Setting up the theme and other minor details.. Glad you’re coping well – sometimes those little distractions, like the kids, keep us grounded ๐Ÿ™‚ Kittens?! I can’t wait to hear ๐Ÿ™‚ I love me tiny kittens, they’re precious!!! See so much love?! Take care love -Iva

  23. Just because her life was long doesn’t mean the pain is lessened. I find it interesting that you and I are both dealing with tremendous loss right now – me with a young family member and you with an aged one. It’s really hard, either way.

    My husband still has three living grandparents – all age 96+! All of mine died before my first child was born and I still miss my Dad’s mother, A LOT.

    Thinking of you, my friend. And sending MANY virtual hugs…

    1. I’ve really been thinking about you too. And so interesting – a life lived long, and a life cut short, and we’re still in agonizing pain.
      Loss is loss, I guess. You really put such a unique perspective on this – thank you.
      Your husband’s family seems to have strong genes – wow.

  24. It really is so amazing to know some one who has lived 100 years, much less be related to them. I can imagine how sad you are and how much you will miss your grandma. She lived 100 beautiful years, and even though I know that doesn’t make missing her or the sadness go away, you know she lived a full, wonderful life and that you added to it!

    1. It helps, though. Thanks Tenns! It really helps to think about 100 beautiful years. It doesn’t necessarily help the loss, but I guess the thought that she had so much really does help.

  25. I feel for you Tamara. As I watch my own parents get older and know they lived a long life, it still does not make it any easier watching their health slowly fade. Sending hugs.

    1. So sorry to you – and I hope your parents are around for a very, very long time yet. My dad’s parents are still alive, which is fascinating to me. I hope that means he inherited those genes!
      And I know my mom has good gens. My father’s parents passed away in their 80’s and I never thought I’d get through that, but I did.

  26. You so poignantly summarize what it feels like to lose a grandparent, like your childhood is slipping away. Thank goodness for the memories or sometimes I don’t know what else I’d have. It’s hard to say goodbye. She was my tether and friend. I know what the loss is like and I’ll be thinking of you and sending you lots of hugs. I keep my grandmother alive everywhere I can. Today she is in my nephew who was born this morning, two days after her birthday. When I asked my sister what he looked like all she could say was “Grandma”. Tears for new beginnings.

    1. It makes me feel like my childhood is completely gone (even though I’m over 30) and this was the last link to it. I suppose it isn’t. My brothers and sister still have three living grandparents, which is awesome.
      And congrats on your nephew! So amazing.

  27. I love this post so much. It actually makes me a little sad that the day is going to come when I must grieve the loss of my family tree. I really don’t want to. Now I want to plan a trip to Vegas to visit my grandparents. The last set I have left

    1. Oh yes. Would you drive or fly? Do it! I can’t believe they live in Vegas. They must love the eat! My brother just moved back after living there for 11 years!

      1. It’s a 45 minute flight or a 4 hour drive- but we’ll probably drive just because having a car in vegas helps a lot when your fam lives out there (of course we would have to stay on the strip because VEGAS!) I cant believe they live there too. They’ve been out there for about 6 years and I miss seeing them all the time. I wish they’d move back

        1. Oh, that’s so not bad!! It takes four hours to drive to my parent’s house and we do that a lot. And that’s four hours without counting the inevitable pit stops.
          Maybe they’ll come back to beautiful Cali!

  28. A life lived large will leave a large void. That’s what we have with Nana Jane. I hope you see so much of her in you because it’s there. Not tragic; definitely sad. I can hope for half of the legacy she leaves. And the book? I can’t wait to read it. I hope some of your bedtime stories will be about Nana Jane. Both the ones you tell and the ones Scarlet tells.

    1. Sometimes I just see her in Scarlet – like I’m just this timid in-between. Usually I slap myself with a cookie if I think that way! We are all so connected.

  29. I still remember when you told me the news. The pain of loss will be there for a while but I know that you’ll overcome it. She lived well and she shared in your joys and those of your children and she will always have a place in your heart. Sending you some virtual hugs today. ((huggs))

    1. Yes, you are very special because I told you by text and not by blog post. My friend! I hope you’re feeling so well.
      She lived well and she lives on in our hearts and actions and choices in life.

  30. I am so sorry Tamara. Did your husband get the cat for your family or did you get 2 as I see in the picture? My grandma was 2 weeks from her 100th when she died. Right before she passed I was sitting with her and holding her hand and she told me that she had seen her parents and husband the night before and how much she missed them and that when she left to not cry too much, because she would be happy and free of her sick and ailing body and would be dancing with my grandpa again. This is why we miss them when they leave us, so much wisdom, strength, beauty and joy gone from our lives.

    1. Oh, sigh. Two!! Two!! It took me five years to adjust to the idea of ONE. He didn’t want to split up these two sisters. They’re very cute so far and if he had only gone with the one we wanted (black and white one) well the gray one has such a great personality we would never have known.
      Your story about your grandma is AMAZING. May she dance in peace.

    1. Yes, I feel so similarly. I think nothing would ever be enough. Nothing. And being a parent really made me aware of my own mortality in such new ways.

  31. Your words. So beautiful and true. I relate when you mention grieving your grandfather over again. I felt similarly when my Papa passed. It felt so final, you know? Continuing to think about you as you navigate through life and love and memories.

    1. Final. Yes. So final. And so vast and empty and horrible. That’s what I can’t wrap my head around. Never seeing someone again.

    1. Yes, no matter how long and full her life was, it would never seem like it lasted long enough. I don’t even think she felt that way, though. I think that’s something for the grieving.

  32. Such a beautiful post. It IS really sad that everything has to come to an end at some point. And it doesn’t make it any less sad when a person is “old”. You still feel like you lost touch with a soul that you’ve known your whole life. Life just feels so different with the shifting of generations, like you’ll never get truly used to it.

    1. I had her in my life for so long.. my whole life. It’s harder to say goodbye now than I think it would have been years ago. Her relationship with my kids was really just beginning.
      So thankful she knew them, though.

  33. I don’t even really know what to write but, I want you to know that I read this and it really, really touched me. How could it not? I spend many, many hours thinking of losing my dad and what that will mean – or my aunt, and I literally cannot bear the thoughts. They must live to 100 and beyond and, I need to as well. It will never be enough time! Thank you for writing this.

    1. Oh no – I know. I don’t want to think that way but sometimes I do. And I used to just think it gets easier as you get older. Not so. I just think loss happens more often.

  34. My grandma (mamie) was my best friend and a mom outside of my home. When you say blanket…I started to cry. You have such an amazing way of putting pain into words and then weaving them into hope. Love you babe. She is an amazing soul.

  35. When people told me how lucky I was that my grandpa lived for 96 years, it just made me upset. It doesn’t matter how long someone has lived, we still miss them when they are gone! The grief that we feel is still as valid and real as it would be if they had died at a younger age.

    1. I think I didn’t even realize that until she passed. I kept thinking how lucky I was, even if she herself was done and ready for the next step. So on one hand, I feel lucky, but you’re right – I don’t like people telling me how lucky I am. I feel miserable and not lucky.

  36. Such a beautiful post! I am so sorry for your loss. My grandmother lived until 92, she was such an anchor in our family. Kept everyone grounded and comfortable. I miss her all the time. Sometimes I have moments I forget she is gone and think to call her. You have a beautiful family!

    1. An anchor – that’s a lovely description.
      I sometimes think to call my other Grandma and she passed away over ten years ago.
      Thanks so much for visiting!

    1. Thank you. I suppose it’s as good as can be, really. Yes, we feel very sad and it’s sometimes so brutal it takes my breath away, but I have to believe that 100 good years and a peaceful ending are feats for sure.

  37. I haven’t had any family members live to 100. I think losing someone you dearly love is painful, no matter what. And there is no amount of grief that is too much, or a time when you need to stop. Let it roll…

    1. That’s what I do – let it roll. It’s hard as the more time passes and I get far away from it. And with so much going on here with birthdays and kittens and summer camp and more.

  38. I never met my great-grandparents, but my grandmother died in 2011. She wasn’t quite 100 but was in her nineties and had lived a long life. I still miss her though. This post is so fitting because my kids recently stumbled upon a photo of my grandmother with my six-year-old on her lap when he was a baby. I placed the photo on top of my dresser and have been thinking about her ever since. Great post! Have a terrific day.

    1. I have a lot of photos of myself on my great-grandmother’s lap but I can’t remember her. I wish I did. I was just a baby. She passed away when she was 99!

  39. It is absolutely phenomenal that you had centenarians in your life. I have not had one in my life… YET – but hopefully I will! ๐Ÿ™‚ They’re so inspiring!!!! I will be a centenarian! I PROMISE YOU!

    1. Oh, yes. If there was ever to be a huge contender for it, it’s YOU! It’s because you skip all the Oreos – good choice there.

  40. An absolutely beautiful post Tamara. No matter what age someone is when they die, it’s a loss. My maternal grandmother is 97 years old. I treasure every moment of her lovely beautiful life. I pray she can live past 100.

    Sending you love and hugs.
    xoxo

  41. so beautiful. Give.Big.Love.
    I think I want a tattoo of that. because life is so busy and I forget. I shouldn’t… but I do. And the story must go on, and the very best reason is the love we have in this world.

  42. Loss is loss, Tamara. My condolences. This post made me think of my own grandparents and their legacy. It’s been 20 years since their passing.

    Such a lovely tribute. xoxo

    1. It’s been about ten years since my paternal grandparents. This has definitely made me think back to their lives and legacies.
      It’s deep.
      Thank you so much. xoxo.

  43. Awww…I can totally feel your sadness in this post. We lost my paternal grandparents within three months of each other. Even though that was over a decade ago, I still get sad every fall. Thankfully you’re documenting so much of their lives.

    1. My paternal grandparents passed away within a year of each other. That was horrific. It was somehow like losing them both twice. I can’t imagine three months! This was over a decade too. It was winter.

  44. What a beautifully written post, about the longevity of life, yet also its brevity. Certainly I’ve said to you, and others, that they were blessed with such long lives, but I know now that it doesn’t erase the emptiness and hurt, as it shouldn’t. The length and breadth of their lives only means that they were *that* much more a part of your life. A part that you won’t ever leave behind. And such you should teach to your children, the value of life and love. (Cute drawing by Scarlett!)

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head. It only hurts more that I knew them so long and so well, and now they’re gone.
      Thank you for that.

  45. I just lost my grandfather last year, and it’s the first loss of a grandparent for me since I was three. I miss him, and even though I know his was a life well-lived, I wish our lives weren’t separated, like you said. Love to you.

    1. Wow, that’s such a gap of time between losing a grandparent. And I imagine the differences in feelings, but knowing the pain is still present for both.
      Thank you very much!

  46. Oh Tamara! I’m so sorry that this process makes you think all of these things about the end. I do see what you mean about it being the last thread or piece of your childhood that you could still hold onto. I just can’t imagine what it would be like losing my grandmothers. They were both so important to me growing up. This brings a tear to my eye with just the thought. ๐Ÿ™

    1. I’m so sorry about the tear to the eye!
      It’s like mourning my childhood, and even my young adulthood.
      I was very blessed for a long time.

  47. This is so beautiful Tamara. My last grandparent passed a few years ago and it was such an odd feeling losing the last family member in that generation. It felt like I was losing a tie to the past and a piece of my past. xo

  48. So beautiful, Tamara. When I said goodbye to my last grandparent I had many of the same feelings. Goodbye is hard and sad, no matter how long and full the life that was lived.

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