Two things happened today.

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First, my grandmother died. When people die in movies or on TV, people always say “I can’t believe they’re gone.” And I thought it was just a thing you say. I’m not new to death. Between the ages of 8 and 20, I’ve had 4 other grandparents and 2 uncles die. I was close to all of them.

But this is different. I don’t know if it is because I’m older? I’ve lived more and grown to appreciate my family more. Maybe it is because I got married and learned to really appreciate how wonderful my grandparents’ marriage was. Maybe it is because I had a baby and all of my emotions have been amplified. Maybe it is because I moved away from home and my relationship with my grandma went from seeing her regularly at (crowded) family events to mostly phone calls. That might seem not as good, but I think it was actually better. All that one-on-one chatting we’ve done in the last decade. I certainly knew her better than any other person I’ve lost.

Regardless of why, I’m struggling. Not just with grief, but with belief. I knew it was coming. We’d said our goodbyes. We were all ready, at the end, for her to be done suffering. I understand that she is gone, but I don’t believe it. I feel like I could pick up my phone and call her and ask her about some project I was sewing or recipe I was making. I feel like I could text her a picture of Fiona and she’d see it. I can’t picture her house without her in it. I don’t believe that Fiona won’t remember her–won’t ever get to know her, really.

I thought given her slow decline that when she passed it would seem…. better. Better than what she’d been fighting. And it is. But suddenly with her gone I’m not comparing her death to the last few months of her life. I’m comparing it to her life before. Before hospice. Before cancer. All of a sudden I seem to forget all about the last 7 months and feel like if I called her right now she’d be sitting in her living room reading a murder mystery (she always stayed up late. Coolest Grandma ever).

I’m sure belief is a thing that comes with time. With the daily action of not talking to her. Not seeing her. Maybe the funeral will give me some closure. I don’t really have a conclusion here… just feelings.

The second thing that happened was another grandma refused to let me take her photograph with her granddaughter. I had two newborn shoots scheduled for today. It was weird timing, but actually good to stay busy all day. At the second shoot, the baby’s grandma was staying with the parents for a month to help care for the couple’s two children.

We were wrapping things up and the I asked if the grandma would like to step in to do a photo with her daughter and granddaughter– three generations. She immediately said no. Actually I think she said “abso-freaking-lutely not.” She didn’t have makeup on, and her hair wasn’t done. (For what it is worth, I thought she looked fine!). She didn’t want to be in a photo. So we didn’t do one.

On the drive home I kept thinking about that. About all the photos I’ve dug up of my grandmother, and me with my grandmother, and her with Fiona, these last few days. I don’t think she was ever wearing makeup. In a lot of them she probably would’ve said her hair “looked like hell” (she said that a lot). But she never in my entire life refused to be in a photo, and I’m so grateful. I don’t care what she looked like in the photos, I care how she was looking at me. How she always looked at Fiona. Love is beautiful, lipstick or not. Women are so critical of themselves (myself included) and we’re far too eager to step aside so that we don’t end up in a photo where we don’t look perfect.

I vote we all get over it. Get in the damn picture. If not for yourself, for your loved ones.