Finding my voice: A tribute to my grandma

A student reflects on learning about her grandma’s passing on Feb. 23 and the impact it had on her life.


February 23, 2023

It was as typical a Thursday in my senior year of high school as any. After school, my best friend, Alaina, and I were looking forward to hanging out and binging the newest season of Outer Banks. 

As we lay on my bed, halfway through the first episode, my dad came to my door and said he had to talk to me. I walked into the hallway, and my dad broke the news that my family decided to take my grandma off life support. I was heartbroken, but part of me had seen it coming.

Three weeks prior, my grandma underwent surgery to remove cancer from her jaw and mouth. I knew her recovery process would be extensive because she would not be able to eat or talk for a long time, but I didn’t expect the surgery to result in her being unconscious on life support, or dead.

I can remember the rest of that day so clearly. I told Alaina the news and she went home. My mom came home from visiting my grandma in the hospital, devastated, and I spent the rest of the night crying in my bed. 

Two days later, on Saturday morning, I went to the hospital to see my grandma one last time before she was unplugged from the ventilator that was working to breathe for her. 

I stood next to her bed, alongside my mom, dad and grandpa, as a chaplain held our hands and prayed for her. I went to the lobby to call off work, and then she died. 

I felt somewhat unphased as I stood in the hospital cafe with my dad, knowing my grandmother was taking her last breaths only a few floors above me. I already knew she was going to pass away, I had already processed it and somehow I felt I had already mourned.

That Thursday afternoon, when my dad made me pause Outer Banks, is what I really remember. On that day, I realized I would never see my grandma the same way again. 

I would never get another Christmas day with her, walk the boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland, together or even hear her voice again. To me, that day is when I began to mourn my grandma.

Although Feb. 23 was one of the saddest days of my life, it helped me put things into a different perspective. It allowed me to analyze my grandma’s life and how I saw her throughout my childhood until her death.

As I sat in my bed that evening, processing that my grandma was going to pass away, I decided that I needed to speak at her funeral. It felt like it was something I owed to her. 

Throughout my childhood, I was extremely shy and reserved, but my grandma saw a different version of me. Around her, I was comfortable with myself, talkative and outgoing. She always told me I was beautiful, kind-spirited and meant to go far in life. She saw me as everything I could ever want to be. 

I saw speaking at her funeral as a way for me to be more like her, to overcome my fear of public speaking and to share the memories I made with her to others.

Speaking at her funeral was also a way to prove to myself that I had the public speaking skills necessary to achieve my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist, which was something that my grandma always encouraged me to do.

When I was younger and told her I wanted to study journalism in college, she had faith in me, even when I was worried it would be a difficult field to make a living in.

My grandma supported me so much that when she had the opportunity to meet a local news anchor, Alicia Richards from ABC27 News, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at an event, she made sure to speak with her.

My grandma told Alicia about me and asked her if she had any advice. After sharing her advice with me, my grandma helped me get in touch with Alicia, and I was extended the opportunity to shadow her for a day at ABC27. 

Although my dream is to be a broadcast journalist, I sometimes worry I’m not confident enough or that my public speaking skills are not up to par with other television reporters. 

When I start to have these doubts, I think of how outgoing and confident my grandma was. There were times when her overly outgoing personality could be embarrassing, as she would make herself the center of attention, but she was never self-conscious. 

I always admired her ability to talk to anyone without overthinking or worrying about other peoples’ opinions of her, but she always knew I was capable of that as well. She had always seen me as the little girl who stood on my driveway next to her and yelled across the street to the neighbors that I had “the coolest grandma”. 

Ever since Feb. 23, 2023, I’ve focused on living my life as my grandma would have wanted me to. I try not to worry about what I think I can and can’t do, but instead, I try to do what my grandma knew I could do.


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