I was making pancakes for my three kids this morning, a weekend tradition, when my father called with the news that my grandmother had passed away last night. I wanted to press pause on life for a moment to mourn. But life did not stop. “When will the pancakes be ready, when, when, when?” demanded Felix. “Cuddle, cuddle, I want up”, said Otis. Smoke started to rise in the kitchen as the pancakes burned. So I went back to cooking as tears ran down my cheeks. And after the children had their breakfast fill, I went to my room and took a few moments to reflect.
Maama, as I called her, was perhaps 105 years old, but no one really knows. Its hard to comprehend how much she lived through and all that she saw in her life. She was the matriarch, a formidable magnet that drew our family together.
I lived with her and other members of my Maldivian family when I worked in Male’ after my university degree. We came from different worlds, and could not communicate easily in words because my Dhivehi was poor. But it did not matter. She held my hand in her hand, translucent paper skin creased by a century of life. She held my hand in her hand, engraved with wisdom gained from having pressed her palms to the earth in prayer one hundred thousand times. She held my hand in her hand, glowing with the love of being surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She held my hand in her hand, smiled her toothless smile, and we sat, without words, together. This is what we did. She taught me, perhaps more than anyone, that life is about being still, being with family, being present.
Her passing is sad. I wish I could have seen her more recently. I wish my children could have had the chance to meet her. But she lived a life of greatness. And so I write this today as my #ilovelife post, which may seem strange. But what I have come to know is that to love life is not necessarily to be happy all the time. It is to embrace all of life, including death. There are times when life will be sad and painful, but to love life is to live it. To sink into every moment deeply. To feel. All of it. Not to run away, or resist, or force happiness. It is to be where you are with acceptance. And when you do that, a background of peace encircles everything.
So I am sad today, but I am ok with being sad. There is space around my sadness.
And I still love life and I am grateful. I am grateful that I knew my grandmother, that she loved me and I loved her. I am grateful for all that she taught me. And I am grateful that I got to hold her beautiful hands. Many, many times.