I wanted to see you before you passed away. At the very least, I wanted to write you a letter. Many times I had crafted this correspondence in my head, imagining the words I would put to paper; the things I never told you. Of course every day there was a new distraction from the kids, and nighttime meant driving to activities, going to the gym, or collapsing into a heap of exhaustion on the couch. I know you understand, but it doesn't make my heart ache any less.
I wanted to tell you that I have always admired you for coming from humble beginnings and finding your fame. More important than that, you did work that made you happy. Sometimes the hours and intensity required to be great in your field meant that you lacked time for your family. I know that must have hurt more than you ever let on. No one can do it all, but you wanted to try.
Things slowed down a little bit by the time I came around. I think as your grandchild, I was in a unique position to see those carefree moments that others missed. You were able to give enough pause in-between commitments to truly enjoy our time together.
It might surprise you that I can recall with vivid detail from our last visit the musical sound of your laughter and the smile of joy you had on your face while holding your great-grandchild in your arms.
One of my favorite childhood memories is of a trip to the zoo in California when I was maybe about 6 or 7 years old. There was a cute baby monkey there that was wearing a diaper. I was absolutely in love with this little guy, and you were so amused by the story that you went out and found me a stuffed monkey, then hunted down a cloth diaper for it, too. Just for fun, the monkey was also given a hat and mittens. You were elated to present me with this gift, and I still have "Safari," who sits proudly on a shelf in my house.
To echo Grandma, who repeatedly stated during your funeral that, "it all went so fast," well... it did. Somehow in the depths of denial, I thought your life would go on forever. I thought there would always be another dinner out together, another chance to share stories, and another chocolate cake for birthdays.
I know memories are supposed to comfort me. While I do hold these recollections close, I noticed that there is a little light gone from my eyes. There is an empty space in my heart. No one can bring back that same exact sparkle or fill the spot where you were, because you were truly one of a kind.
I am thankful for the privilege of being your granddaughter. I love you like a poem in my heart that I have known the words to all my life. I will do my best to be a good person, to work hard and to inspire others. These are the ways in which I hope I can honor your legacy, but you are a tough act to follow. Your charisma was a gift, and one that is impossible to duplicate. Your greatness will never be forgotten.