The sunset bloomed like spilled ink on wet paper the evening she died.
The brightest copper-gold, a deep burgundy rose, orange like the fruit.
I remember looking out the window,
worrying and then not thinking at all,
just seeing the colors
like it was the first time they’d risen from the falling sky.
My mother cried from the neighboring room.
She’s dead, she said. Your grandmother’s dead.
I shouldn’t have been shocked, to realize she was no longer in the same world.
We had been expecting it for weeks, but
expecting is not always
I dug through the corners of my room until I found an old toy—
the stuffed doll she’d given me the day I was born,
the one I held through my infant illnesses,
the one I brought to every hospital visit and sleepless night,
the one that was with me when she couldn’t be.
She won’t be with me anymore, I thought.
I clutched the doll like it was a cure to all the world’s troubles,
held its ragged cloth and stitched eyelashes,
I thought of her hair, no longer pulled into curlers,
no longer soft and white and fluffy and alive.
She won’t celebrate the fourth of July again, I thought.
She won’t send me a card
and a crisp five-dollar bill
for every holiday that comes our way.
Her hands will no longer give,
her voice will no longer ring.
I remember once, when I was younger,
trying to pinpoint the likeness of her voice.
I decided she sounded like a bell—
twinkling, ringing, singing, jolly, warm, kind.
Every word she spoke sounded like a chorus of songs,
reaching from every corner of the globe to tell me I love you.
Sitting at her table as she brought out piles and piles of food,
every plate on her finest china even though it was a small family meal
for a five-year-old and her siblings,
listening to her speak,
was the calmest I ever felt.
The fidgeting inside of me stopped.
I remember the angel figures she had
strung on the chandelier,
the way they twisted and glinted and seemed to smile.
As she passed into the kitchen every morning,
the hummingbird figurine above the door hit the wind chimes
and sung to her,
the way the real birds outside her window did,
thanking her for the feeder on her tree,
for the sugared water she refilled every Monday.
She’d sit on the back porch sometimes,
watching them flitting back and forth
across a vivid blue sky.
Her favorite color was blue, like our eyes.
Every shirt she owned was blue.
The couches were blue,
the carpet was blue,
her favorite Delft porcelain adorned the fireplace with white and blue.
The blanket laid on her hospital bed couldn’t have been anything else.
My mother had been watching her, feeding her
an hour before.
She was ready to help again tomorrow,
my father at her side,
not ready to say goodbye
but ready to help.
The phone rang.
The phone always rings.
I still remember the day my grandfather called to tell us my little cousin was dead—
gone, and they didn’t even know why.
I wished sometimes we could take away phones,
burn them like spindles
and hope our young would never find the remains.
The news would still reach us.
We can run, but the truth,
always finds us.
Does it set us free?
You tell me, grandmother. Tell me the wolf isn’t there.
Tell me loss doesn’t exist.