The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

DI Voices | A matriarch’s legacy: honoring my grandmother’s journey

Gloria Percy.
Jasmine Nichols
Gloria Percy.

In the tapestry of my life, there exists a thread of boundless love woven by the hands of my grandmother. The impact of her on my life is immeasurable like the steady beating of my heart she helped create: constant and profound. As I hold her trembling hand in mine, I vow to cherish every moment we have left together.

My grandmother has congestive heart failure, an enlarged heart and a heart valve that is leaking. She’s had two strokes that resulted in hand spasticity (she can’t open her left hand) and two heart attacks. She has hypoxia (low oxygen circulation), so she has to wear oxygen tubing. She also has diabetes and high blood pressure. Though she had been struggling for about 20 years, her health drastically declined about two months ago. She’s been under care for some time now.

In the serene corridors of the hospital, amidst the beeping of machines and the hushed whispers of nurses, my grandmother rests with my mother next to her. My mother serves as a beacon of unwavering support in the face of uncertainty while my grandmother tries her damndest to heal. She can take all the time she needs — my mother will remain.

I call my mom every day and ask what she’s doing. Nowadays, her answer is always, “In the hospital with mom.” She doesn’t sit at her desk or see her coworkers anymore — she works from her laptop so she won’t have to be away from grandma. She sits by my grandmother’s side, her laptop perched on her knees. With each click of the keyboard, she types away tirelessly, her eyes never straying far from my grandmother’s frail form.

As she works from her laptop, my mother juggles the demands of her job with the responsibilities of caring for my grandmother. Despite this, I’ve never heard her complain once. For her, family always comes first, and she is willing to go to any lengths to ensure my grandmother receives the care and attention she needs.

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As my grandma continues her battle against sickness, I can’t help but reflect on the vibrant woman she had once been. Before this illness had cast its shadow over her, my grandmother had been a force of nature. She was a very independent person who would do anything for her daughter and grandchildren. And she was always ready to laugh.

Growing up, we used to bicker a lot. I couldn’t understand her language and took her tough love as unkindness. But as I grew older and started to really notice how much she’s done for me, I understood. 

I understand you now, grandma. 

Shaped by a life marked by challenges, her love comes with a no-nonsense attitude and a firm hand. But beneath that tough exterior lies a heart full of warmth.

I remember her generosity over anything. I remember her willingness to help whenever I needed it most, whether it was sending me money when times were tough or scratching my back when it was time for a nap after a long day. Her classic line was always, “I got you this — you know, grandma is always thinking of you.” And one thing about her: she always made sure I was fed.

It’s hard seeing her so skinny and weak. The last time I visited her, every labored breath she took seemed to echo the gravity of her condition. The thought of losing her — of saying goodbye to the woman who had been my rock — is too much to bear. 

In the depths of that hospital room, surrounded by the constant hum of machinery, I felt a sense of helplessness, unlike anything I had ever felt. And as I looked into my grandmother’s tired eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder how we would ever find the strength to say goodbye.

But despite her illness, some things never changed. My grandmother still swears like a sailor; her colorful language is a constant source of amusement and affection. It is a reminder of the wild spirit that lay within her. She refuses to let illness rob her of her voice — her irreverent, unapologetic voice.

It’s a strange juxtaposition to see her weakened by illness and yet still fiercely fighting for every breath. Grieving someone who is still alive requires a balance between acceptance and hope. It’s about finding the courage to acknowledge the reality of her condition while still holding onto the chance of just one more day.

I’ll miss her in the quiet moments — when there is a stillness, a calmness. In these moments, when there are no distractions and the world seems to slow down, I find myself thinking of her. To think that one day, while I’m driving down Church Street, all that will be left is her empty house. I should’ve turned the corner and stopped by a little more to say hello.

There are so many things I wish I had said (and hadn’t said), and moments I wish I had cherished more. Regret weighs heavy on my heart as I reflect on the times I took for granted, the conversations left unspoken and the moments left unshared. I wish I had told you more often how much you mean to me.

I’m 160 miles away, but all I want is to sit on the couch and watch your shows with you. I want to run errands with you again. I want to decorate the Christmas tree and bake cakes with you again. I’d call you right now to tell you how I feel but you’re too sick to answer the phone.

I hope this doesn’t scare you. 

As I write, I can’t help but feel worried that my words about sickness and death may be frightening for you. Please know that it’s not my intention to cause you any fear, but rather to express my love and concern for you during this challenging time. I understand that talking about illness and mortality can be scary, but I want you to know that you’re not facing this journey alone.

I want you to know that my love for you transcends sickness and death. It’s a love that knows no bounds, a love that will endure long after this moment has passed. So let’s take each day as it comes. We can sit together in companionable silence as if our souls are speaking to each other in whispers too soft for the world to hear.

I love you.


Jasmine is a freshman in Media.

[email protected]

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