Changed for Good -By: Lilah Katz

by Lilah Katz
I was in the car on a drizzly, cold February day. I could feel my hands getting cold as I drew faces in the window. You would think this is just a normal car trip, but it was a trip that changed my life. I was going to Virginia Beach, but this time it wasn’t a fun vacation with my grandma. We would see her, of course, but we would be going to the hospital this time instead of her beautiful apartment.
As I begin my song for Grandma, the lyrics float across my mind as I sing them I think. I think about all this experience has done to me. The crowd listens around me, but I don’t sing for them.
“I’ve heard it said, that people come into our lives, for a reason. Bringing something we must learn and we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them. And we help them in return.”
A normal four hour car trip like this for my family of 5; me, now 11, Noah, almost 17, Benjamin, now 14, and my mom and dad is normally brutal. Someone will antagonize, and someone will yell. Strangely though, this was the quietest Noah, Benjamin, and I ever had been while shoved into the back seats of our tiny Prius, with me of course squished in the middle seat.
We were finally there, but this was a strange feeling. Normally, whenever we drove to Virginia Beach, once I saw the ocean and Neptune on the boardwalk I knew that we were finally just a few minutes away. Never before had I looked around and seen this familiar sight of the gigantic statue of Neptune on the boardwalk, and the ocean with our beautiful beach and not been super excited. On the contrary however, I was terrified, and I dreaded seeing my grandma in this state.
Grandma had always been on such a high pedestal for me. She was an elegant woman who always dressed nicely and loved beautiful gems. Grandma was one of those women that did not like to reveal her age or anything that she thought was ugly about herself. You would not be able to guess her age anyway because she normally looked great and years below her age. She would do anything for my brothers and me, and during the few times that we saw her every year, she spoiled us rotten. Noah, Benjamin, and I loved going to Virginia Beach to see her, because until the last month or so, it was always fun. We loved her, and she loved us. I knew that all of the medications the doctors were putting her on to keep her living could make a person not act like themselves, but I didn’t want to see her like that. I wanted to see her as I always had, up on that pedestal. As my family and I walked inside the hospital, I listened to my mom as she started to explain what this was going to be like.
“Your grandmother loves you all very much,” she started. “All of the medications that she is on can really…”
I knew where this was going, and I also knew that I didn’t want to listen to it anymore. This explanation was exactly what had been running through my head during the car ride. The only difference was that I thought that I could have been wrong. Now that my mom was telling us this, it seemed more real than it ever had. I figured I should still be listening, even though I didn’t want to.
“…So this might be the last time you ever visit her.”
Her eyes filled with tears, and she stopped talking.
“What?” I thought.
This was not what I was expecting. I knew that the medications would cause Grandma to not act like herself, but she had fought off cancer almost 2 years. I knew that Grandma was strong, and I didn’t think that she would be leaving me after all this.
“We really don’t know what will happen…”
My mom broke off. She didn’t want to say it, understandably. She knew that we knew she meant when, not what. Then I realized that we were there, on the floor with all the other people and the families of people who were being ripped apart by cancer. My mom grabbed my hand and I squeezed it. We needed each other for support.
“Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true, but I know I’m who I am today, because I knew you.”
I don’t see all of the people invited to the funeral. I see my Grandma in the hospital with Benjamin, Noah, my dad, my mom, and me at her bedside, trying to talk to her.
“Grandma, I love you.”
I hadn’t talked for a while, but I wanted to make sure that she heard those words before we left. Grandma’s eyes rolled back, again. That had happened many times for the hour that we had been there, with the doctors and the many times my brothers and I had to leave the room when my parents talked to the numerous medical officials that walked in, but it was still scary.
“More than the oceans, my princess,” she replied weakly.
Her eyes rolled back into her head again. Grandma’s dazzling view from her penthouse apartment was just across the street from the beach. From the living room, you can see what looks like diamonds bouncing off the ocean from the sun’s reflection. Grandma always loved to say that she loved me more than the oceans could hold. I sang not to the funeral guests, but to the oceans that Grandma had traveled the world on and still not found enough room to store all of her love for me.
“Like a comet pulled from orbit, as it passes a sun. Like a stream that meets a boulder, half way through the wood. Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
I was up in the middle of the night, again. I hadn’t slept well since our last visit to Grandma, just last week. I heard crying in my Mom’s room and I knew. I knew that what I had been dreading for a week had happened. Trying not to wake the boys, I rushed to my Mom’s room.
“She’s gone.”
“It well may be that we may never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part that so much of me is made from what I learned from you, you’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.”
All of my memories of Grandma were rushing back. As I looked out, I saw so many people who had loved my Grandma and from a deep part of me, beneath all of the grieving, I felt so proud of my grandma, and all that she had done. That deep part of me sang my song for Grandma with pride and love.
“Like a ship blown from its mooring, by a wind off the sea. Like a seed dropped by a sky bird, half way through the wood.”
I didn’t care how well the guests thought I had done on my song to Grandma. I needed to do this perfectly for Grandma. I needed to know that the last thing I did for her would be exceptional. The truth though is that I think about her and do things for her every day. Grandma has never left my heart, mind, and memory, and she never will. I have learned that even though people leave you, if you love them, they are never gone.
“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”


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