Knowing and Dreaming; an Exercise in Grief

Grief / Holistic Faith

Guest Post - Katie Koranda

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi

I dreamed that I was at my grandparent’s house in upstate New York. They were dead, just like they are in real life. I was rummaging through cupboards, frantically trying to find a memento of their life.

“Where is the glass jar with Snoopy on it that she kept instant coffee in?!” I yelled to my sisters.

The house was mostly empty. I couldn’t find anything. I was crushed.

I didn’t really know my grandparents. I grew up 561 miles away from them -- 8 hours and 32 minutes to be exact.

They didn’t visit us in Chicago. They hated flying, and I don’t remember why they didn’t make the drive.

We would drive to New York a few times a year, but we spent the majority of the time with my mom’s side of the family.

But even the time we spent with my grandparents left me wanting more. Well, I didn’t realize I wanted more until later. 

They were quiet. Pictures of grandkids were contained to one guest room in the house.

My grandma died first. It all happened so fast. She had been taking care of my grandpa in his failing health. She got an infection after having surgery. She never recovered and died a week after Christmas my first year of grad school.

The day after the funeral, we celebrated my grandpa’s 86th birthday. He didn’t stop talking. I had never seen anything like it.

He told us that after the funeral, he took my grandma’s photo -- the one that had been atop her casket at the memorial -- and went door to door in his nursing home, proudly showing her off to anyone who would look.

He died five months later.

It’s a strange thing when someone you don’t know (but should) dies.

The regret is palpable.

But if I really think about it, I did know my grandma. She left us a roadmap made of magnets, shampoo and coconut cake.

My grandma was organized. I can still see the magnets arranged in neat lines on her refrigerator and the vacuum lines in the carpet. She set a perfectly neat table.  

My grandma was caring. She made excellent french toast and grilled cheese that she called toasted cheese, and always had something to offer by way of nourishment. Her favorite thing was a frozen Sara Lee coconut cake.

My grandma didn’t want anyone in her home to ever be in need. She had shelves upon shelves of Head & Shoulders shampoo and toilet paper in her basement. I always wondered if this was because she grew up in the depression.

My grandma was a fighter. She raised three boys. She survived a bout with breast cancer. She took care of my grandpa when his health started failing.

To be honest, I’m still deciphering the clues left by my grandpa, but I know they’re there.

In the two years since they’ve died, I learned that you can know someone more than you realize and that even if you don’t, you can still love them.

In my dream, I finally ventured down the basement stairs. The shelves that were filled in real life with toilet paper and shampoo were, in dream world, filled with memorabilia about us, their grandchildren.

There were framed photos and blue ribbons from spelling bees. My cousin’s shelf was full of trophies and her old sports gear.

The shelves were floor to ceiling and took up the length of the basement.

I went back upstairs to the bathroom. My grandma’s bathrobe was hanging up. I breathed it in and clutched the white terrycloth. “I miss you,” I said. Then I woke up.

Katie Koranda is a germaphobe married to a paramedic because life is funny. She has a master’s in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, and is using it (seriously!) as a social media specialist for a global nonprofit based in the Twin Cities. Before that, she wrote hundreds of crime stories as a breaking news reporter, which you can find under her maiden name Katie Kather, if you’re so inclined. She’s learning how to love the Church again after a lifetime of spiritual “misadventures” that include being locked in a room and forcibly baptized in the Holy Spirit. Follow her on Twitter @ktkather.