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It's almost been a year now. A year that my grandma Millie was taken from us. She's in heaven now, with my grandpa Lester who passed in 1970, with her parents and sisters and her other loved ones she outlived. And although that knowledge brings some comfort, it still can't fill the missing piece in my heart that appeared when she left. 

I still remember the day I was informed of her stroke. It was the afternoon of August 8th. It was a hot, sunny day, and I was already in a bad mood because I had to go to work at McDonald's. I was overtired, hot, cranky, and on my way home from Waterville to pick up my uniform when my phone rang. I wasn't planning on answering it until I saw that it was my dad. "What are you doing?" he asked me.

"Going home to get my uniform because I have to work. I'm tired and really don't want to go," I replied. At this point, I was already close to tears. Then he told me.

"Grandma was airlifted to Rochester; she had a stroke," he said. I instantly burst into tears. "I'm going over to Rochester right now, you can meet me there."

"O.K., I'll be right there," I said, hanging up the phone. I had never cried like that before, ever. I was in hysterics when I called my manager and told her I wouldn't be able to work. I didn't know what to do with myself. All I could think was that Grandma couldn't be taken from us — not then. I always knew the day would come, but nothing can prepare you for something like that. I just always thought she'd be around. I didn't want to think of the day when she might pass away.

I went and picked up my best friend, Jasmine, because I couldn't drive to Rochester by myself. First, though, I pulled over so I could calm down a bit and be able to drive safely. She was crying with me when I called her and told her about Grandma. She knew and loved Grandma, too, and seeing me so upset made her upset, too. 

It took what seemed like forever, but we finally made it to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester. I practially ran to the Intensive Care Unit. When I entered her room, seeing her in that state, made me upset all over again. It was one of the only days she could still talk to us, although she didn't really know what she was saying. I held her hand and told her I loved her. She told me she loved me, too. That was the last time I heard those words come from her mouth.

She spent exactly two weeks in Rochester, her condition gradually getting worse and worse, and I went to visit her every day during those two weeks. The doctor told us the stroke affected over half of her brain, and even if she had pulled out of it, she would never be the same. I remember having to make the decision with my dad of whether or not to resuscitate her if something failed, and then having to decide to take her feeding tube out. We knew Grandma wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially. She lived a long, great life, and as she told me before, "When it's my time, God will take me." Those words were what helped us make those decisions.

On August 22nd, at about four in the morning, Grandma Millie took her last breath. My dad waited until I woke up the next day to tell me. It was the day before my 17th birthday. This time, the news didn't come as much of a shock, because we knew this day was coming soon. But that didn't help the pain at all.

My Grandma's funeral was really difficult to get through. My three best friends, Jasmine, Taylor, and Heidi went with me — they were there for me every step of the way. Honestly, I wouldn't have been able to do it without them or my family. They gave me the strength, encouragement and love I needed to be able to get through each day. At the funeral, various relatives I didn't really know too well asked me, "Are you Jessica, Millie's granddaughter? She loved you so much. She used to speak so highly of you all the time." Those words warmed my heart. I knew Grandma loved me very much, but hearing about how she told others about me put a real smile on my face, my first real smile in about two weeks.

My Grandma's death was the most difficult thing I'd ever gone through. Besides my parents, she was the person I loved most in the world, and she was the first loved one I'd ever lost. As my brothers and I were growing up, she came over every Monday and Thursday for about six years (and any other day that my dad asked) to babysit us while my dad worked nights at the Albert Lea Tribune. She was there for every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Christmas concerts at school, dance recitals, birthdays and more throughout the years. When I got my license, I would go and visit her at least once a week, usually more. 

Every time I went and visited her, I could tell how happy she was to see me, and she would tell me every time how it made her day just to see me. When she was babysitting us when I was little and I was crying because I missed my dad, she would hug me and tell me it was O.K. and that I would see him the next day when he was home. She loved my family so much, and we loved her just as much. 

There isn't a day that goes by I don't think about her. It still makes me really sad to think about her, but I also look back fondly on all the memories I have with her. Those are all I have left now — memories. But I know she's in a better place, and I know that she's watching over me. Just because she passed away doesn't mean she stopped loving me. I have to remind myself of that when I get upset about it, when I miss her so much I can't help but cry.

I can't believe it's almost been a whole year. I wish so badly she could be here with us now, to see me turn 18. I wish I could go to her house and hear her tell me stories about growing up on the farm. That was the thing about my Grandma — she loved to talk. I would just sit there and listen to her intently as she told me stories. She told me about what she did that day and what she was planning on doing that week. She was filled with so much love, and she lived an amazing 86 years. So here's to you, Grandma. I miss you, I love you, and I'll see you again one day. Until then, keep on shining, keep watching over us, my guardian angel. Your memory will forever live on, and my love for you is still as strong as it has ever been. 

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