This essay is part of the monthly Collective Culture column.
By Bobbi Adair
Edited by Jazmin Batey
When I opened my journal to write this note by hand, a picture of my mother and I, at the funeral wedding of my best friends, fell onto the floor beside me. As I looked at the photo, I realized that today, August 10th, was the exact date the photo was taken, a few short years ago – making today their anniversary. Though my original reasons for approaching these pages were far from celebratory, I took this occurrence as a sign that the sadness I came here to release was more of a cathartic honouring of love than I anticipated. And so, surrounded by examples of compassion and care in the form of my friends, my mother and the universe – which urged me to open my journal on this specific day – this entry became more of a “Thank You” card than a search for consolation.
Still, though thankful, deeming this note a “Thank You” card adds a Hallmark-esque quality that seems to diminish the weight of emotion this epistle truly carries. What it really is, is a final letter. You see, that Freudian slip earlier, where I awkwardly mislabeled my best friends’ wedding, would have been easier to avoid if I weren’t writing just a few short days before the funeral of Elsie Dorothy Adair: my grandmother.
It’s almost unnerving the way the events of life and death coincide; meeting in the middle as if to remind you that it is all truly cyclical – all connected… When thinking of this letter as a final “Thank You”, it matches this unending cycle of “coincidences” that my cousin would so aptly call my grandmother’s funeral ceremony a “Thanksgiving Service”. It may be a common name for this process of celebrating life and digesting grief, but it was a name I’d never heard before – or mentally glossed over until it’s relevance truly hit home. Once again, all the aforementioned signs pointed my pen to this moment; encouraging me to write a final letter in preparation for a new anniversary I would have to add to my calendar. I suppose this was my version of a Thanksgiving Service.
In this growing list of strangeness, is it strange that it doesn’t bother me that the last photo I took with my grandmother was at her own 50th Wedding Anniversary? As I mentally unfold the last letter my grandmother wrote to me, I realize it’s not strange at all. I consider myself a visual person, one who’s fallible memory relies on photos and thrives on nostalgia. Yet, I didn’t and still do not need pictures to remember the scent of my grandmother’s home or the sound of her voice. My grandmother and I shared something else.
During some of my most formative years, my grandmother and I were pen pals. Sometimes our letters would be mailed, and I would look forward to seeing a hummingbird or the word “JAMAICA” on beautiful, coloured stamps. Other times, her letters would be marked “Miss Bobbi Leigh, c/o Mr. Robert Adair” as it accompanied my father on his return to Canada. There, I would be waiting to pluck my grandma’s words from his palm, like the mangoes plucked from the tree in her front yard, that I would later consume as well. I suppose it isn’t very strange that writing became a vessel of sorts for me, connecting me to myself the way it had connected me to my grandmother.
In the days since her passing, the written passages my grandmother sent me left me more thankful and filled with love than I realized. Seeing the curves in her script, in a penmanship that not-so-strangely resembled my own, helped me recall the way her voice would curve as she seemed to sing my name. More clearly than a camera could ever capture, the shape of her words as she wrote that she “wishes she was nearer” brought the shape of her face and the frail strength of her hand in mine into the frame of my mind.
I could continue to speak about the numerous, “strange” ways my grandmother lovingly connected so many pieces in my life, but our mutual affinity for crossword puzzles once again reminds me that whether across or down, it’s truly all connected. There was no piece of us that she did not somehow bring together, especially in these full-circle days where the changes in life attempt to eclipse the reality of death. Though a steady-handed matriarch through-and-through, my grandmother was also my friend. As one of my first confidantes and inspirations, her love of writing set my own into motion. The letters that remain have instilled in me an appreciation for romantic, age-old, tokens of love written by hand.
So, Grandma, in this final letter that I wish I sent sooner, I’ll end with…thank you: for being the source and reflection of so much of the love I hold dear, and for creating a connection between us that continues to flow like your cursive on a page. I’ve never felt nearer to you.
Miss Bobbi Leigh
Often referring to herself as a temperamental taurus, Bobbi is twenty-something and tired on most days; currently occupying space as a Black woman in marketing/advertising in Toronto. Bobbi expresses her dreams, fears, experiences and most irksome musings about race, technology and popular culture as a member of the Collective Culture writing team. She also dabbles as a writing coordinator, making use of her teaching assistant experience and general love of weaving words.
If you’re looking for her, find her here.