Paper Swan

Claire Schwabenland

© Copyright 2018 by Claire Schwabenland

Photo of a paper swan.

This story is about love and death, and a life well lived. 

It is the summer of 2016, I am 18 years old. Iíve never experienced a death in the family. My grandmother, my fatherís mother, had been sick for years with off and on cancer treatments. In 2006 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. I canít recall the moment my father told me, but I remember being worried and confessing to my parents that I was scared. To a young kid cancer equates death, and death means not getting to see someone you love anymore; I was petrified of that idea. In January 2007 she went into remission and things looked positive for a change, but that soon ended quickly. Her cancer came back in little over a year and she didnít go back into remission until 2013.

My grandma was an independent, stubborn woman; she refused to die when things kept getting worse. Her refusal to never die made me believe that she was invincible. When more health problems followed: a stroke where she fell and hit her head, as well as other health scares, I was surprised to find out that, in spring of 2015, she was going to die. Everyone went to the hospital to say their goodbyes, everyone had already shed their tears when my family got there and were just glad that she wouldnít be suffering anymore. However, me being me, I was devastated; I was walling like a baby and selfishly didnít want her to die; I had never lost someone before.

My grandmother, a mother of seven children and a grandma to 13 grandchildren, was an inspiration to me and my number one encourager. Her perseverance and strength taught me to never give up. Each day for her was a gift and she made sure she lived it right. She was selfless, she always put others before herself even if she didnít know them. She always found the time, even when she was in pain, to come to my soccer games or my little sisterís dance recital; she was a trooper. My sisters and I were always meet with a big smile when we visited her on the weekends or during family gatherings, and she never failed to ask us how our life was going and if we had any exciting things going on. But most of all she was an artist, I was an artist, and she loved it whenever I showed her something new. She always encouraged me to keep going with my art even if it wasnít the most ideal or practical thing to continue on with. When I went to her deathbed that night I wanted to give her one last piece of art, a paper swan, a passing on gift; something that would make her journey a peaceful one.

My family and I waited and waited that Spring of 2015 for her to pass on, but she never did. She went on to live her life; going from an old folkís home, where she hated it, back home, then finally back to a care facility where she died on August, 7, 2016 at 84 years old. It was a weird feeling knowing that I would never get to see her again, but I had cried all my tears that Spring night in 2015, I had accepted that her death was inevitable.

Her funeral was one of celebration, one of a life well lived, but I couldnít shake the feeling that it was all wrong and that she would somehow wake up and beat death like she had done before. I just felt numb. I was angry that she was taken away from me without a notice, away from the world were people loved her, I was angry at the preacher for focusing his speech more on God than on her, and I was angry that I could never tell her how much she had meant to me. There were moments of remembrance and of sorrow, it was a time of togetherness. Jokes were made of the time she ran into the side of a Whataburger with her car and how even after that fact she still wanted to drive. People from her past and present showed up, people that knew her children, but didnít know her, came in support. It was a great feeling to know that people would reminisce in her life even if they didnít get the chance to know her.

Almost two years have passed and my vivid memories of her are bright, but somethings are becoming lost and it made me wonder if after all the people that hold her dear are gone would she still be left in this world? Would her life and her accomplishments be forgotten just because those who hadnít forgotten her were gone? I donít want that for her, she deserves to be remembered, just as much as everyone else does. My belief is that if I write about her life that she will always have a place in this world, even after I am long gone. I hope that my story intertwined with hers does her justice.

Being a young adult now, I have come to understand her strength. She was a strong woman because of her family and friends that loved her unconditionally. Love lifts us up to extraordinary heights, it allows us to smile through the pain and be our best selves. Each of her battles was not just fought by her, but the people who pushed her up with love that kept her going.

There are still times when I think about her and tears start to tumble out of my eyes at the thought that there will never be anyone in my life quite like her, no one to replace the special bond we shared about art, no one to be the grandma that she was to me. She was irreplaceable and a piece of me went with her the day that she died.

I never saw that paper swan I made her again, but I like to think it carried her someplace where she is at peace.

Claire Schwabenland has lived in Texas all her life, and currently resides in Houston, Texas were she lives with her parents and two sisters. She first discovered her love for reading in elementary school and has been hooked ever since. From her love of reading came her love for writing and story-telling.  

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