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May 8 2016

Death In Life’s Perspective – Remembering Grandma on Mother’s Day

I’m an intended communications major. I’m constantly interacting with others. I am bi-literate, and with two languages, I often find myself talking more than not. However, at my grandmother’s funeral, when it was my turn to speak, I found myself in a paralyzed state.

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I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t speak. I just had tears streaming silently down my face. My grandma had been in the hospital for about a month now. She was in a healthy state of mind, just physically very weak. I had just gotten back to Berkeley after spending a week at home for spring break, where I spent hours at physical therapy with her every day. She always saw the good in people; she was kind, wise, and so remarkably funny. My last words to her were “I’ll see you in a month baba, and I’ll paint your nails, because we’ve got to do something about your manicure”. When my dad called April 1st at 7:30 AM, I didn’t know how to handle myself. Not because I didn’t know how to deal with death, but because my support system was 300 miles away.

I am a very sensitive person. I’ve learned to use crying as an outlet for stress, rather than an emotion expressed from being upset. With this, I’ve built a wall up towards my emotions and towards the people who try to tap into them. I kept it together when I found out, and I kept it together on the flight home. When I got to the funeral, I was approached with an overwhelming amount of sympathy and condolences from family and friends who had come to pay their respects. That’s when I lost it. I didn’t want to go back to school, I had no motivation to study anymore or be happy anymore. My brother pulled me aside and said “the best thing for us is to stay as strong and as stoic as we can so that we don’t make it any harder for our parents”. I’m 300 miles away. I can’t constantly be thinking about the “what ifs” if I were closer to home. My job right now is to be a supportive daughter and to do well in school. I realized that I have to support the ones who have always supported me, and that the concept of family will be the glue that keeps us together.

Life happens. Not always how you hope, not always as planned. I think I’m always going to resent myself for not speaking at the funeral. I learned to read and write in Russian just so that I could write letters to her while I was away at school. Even though that isn’t the case anymore, I’m going to do whatever I can to make her proud because it’s what she would have wanted. I am going to stay strong for myself and for my family, because that’s what we all need the most. She lived a long and beautifully prosperous life, and that’s what we’ll remember her by.

I guess all I can hope is for it to get better tomorrow. For the wound to start healing. Occurrences like this happen at fairly inconvenient times, for lack of a better word. Whether you’re in college like me or not, call your grandparents for me. I wish I could do the same. If this happens to you as it has to me, I truly promise you’ll be okay. It’s going to be hard, and painful, and it’ll make you feel empty for a while. I don’t think it’ll get easier, just more manageable every day. Focus on school and yourself. Go out if being with people is what you need, and stay home and grieve if that’s what you want to do. Remember the good times and not the bad ones. And if you don’t agree with any of this, that’s okay too. Do what’s best for you, because you’re the only one who truly knows what will help.

image courtesy of R. Rotenberg

image courtesy of R. Rotenberg

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About Rochell Rotenberg

Hi, I’m Rochell! I’m a sophomore at UC Berkeley double majoring in Psychology and Media Studies. I’ve lived my whole life in sunny Los Angeles, CA. I’m a dancer, hot yoga junkie, wannabe chef, brunch enthusiast, and an extreme “Friends” binge watcher. I’m happiest when I’m with my family and two adorable pups. I am the firmest believer that the best medicine is chicken soup. It soothes the soul. Seriously.

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