My dad's mother passed away in 2000, and my mom's mother had her homecoming in the summer of 1997. I was born in 1993, and most days, I wish I had more time with them both.
I guess I never really noticed that their deaths accounted for a pretty significant void in my life until now. Whenever I'm home from school, I get to see my nieces and nephews interact with my parents, and I love that. I am so grateful that they are able to have their grandparents in their lives because grandparents are love's archetype. At the same time, it's something that I always wished that I was able to have.
But even though they aren't physically here, I feel their presence. I feel their blood running through my veins, their strength when I want to give up, and their love keeping me warm on cold, rainy days. If the world and all of its cruelty made them too tough, I can feel them reminding me to stay soft. I never really got to know either one of them, but each day that I learn more about myself is another day that I become closer to them.
Sometimes it isn't enough, though. Sometimes I wish I knew what their laughs sounded like. I wish I knew more of their lives in Jamaica. I wish I had more than a couple photos of them. I often feel myself drowning in this ocean of missed opportunities.
But I always manage to stay afloat.
My name is Bernice.
That is the middle name that I used to hide, but as I grow older, I develop more appreciation for it. There's comfort and strength in sharing that name with one of my grandmothers.
Without her, there is no me. But in a very similar way, without me, there is no her. The way that she shaped my mother played a role in the way that my mother shaped me.
And here I am. The product of generations filled with pain and struggle but hope so strong that it is the very thing that runs blood through my veins.