Shawn Braley

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Shirley Blevins Was Deeply Loved

My grandmother, Shirley Blevins, died this past Summer. I wrote this shortly after her death. Haven’t felt like posting it until now. 


Asleep on a pull out couch. “Wake up!” They tell me. Something has changed. She’s gone. And just like that, it is over. We have been here for two nights. Part of me wanted it to be the last night. Another part of me wanted it to never end. We’ve been through this drill before. It always ends the same. She’s still breathing. We go home and sleep another night in our own beds knowing that she will be there to smile, hug us and tell us she loves us. 

This time is different. I walk into the cold hospital room. My mother is standing by her brother. They both seem like they’re trying to hold back the unexplainable and overwhelming grief. The kind of grief that comes without words. Only emotion. I look to the bed my grandma has been in these last few nights. Her body is there, but her soul is gone. Her eyes are mostly shut. Her mouth is wide open. She’s here, but she’s gone. 

The family waits. Talks. Sits. Cries. Forces a smile. Even though all of us believe she is in “a better place” we cannot fully comprehend what it is like to be without this person. This person who has been there my entire life. A person who watched me cry and spit up as a baby. She watched me do the same as a man. I love her with my whole heart. There are just those people that are in each of our lives that are irreplaceable. She is one. 

Don’t get me wrong. She is deeply flawed. I haven’t always agreed with her. I haven’t realized the deep gratitude and love I felt in every moment towards her. One of our last conversations had her chiding me for going to a church where the pastor didn’t where a suit when he preached. I smiled and said, “I understand grandma.” She said, “No, you don’t” and laughed. We held hands and prayed together before I left. She said she was proud of me. I told her, “I am who I am today because of your love for me.” She smiled her big toothless smile. 

There are moments I’ll cherish. Sleeping at her apartment for weeks at a time in the summer. Her infatuation with Frisch’s Big Boy. Her love for all things Christmas. The fact that she would cook us all dinner even though she herself could no longer ingest food, but had to eat through a feeding tube. I can’t quite explain why she is irreplaceable. She just is. 

As we waited for each family member to arrive, I watched her lifeless body. I waited for her to perk up and say, “I’m still here!” And smile. But this time, she didn’t wake up. She didn’t smile. She didn’t move at all. All I could think of was being 11 again and running around Finneytown with friends. Her apartment was a place of solace to me. A place I felt the deepest love I can imagine. A place where I encountered what it was to know that someone could unconditionally feel love towards another. I am not sensationalizing it simply because she is no longer around. This was always and will always be what I think about in the summer months. 

Shirley Blevins wasn’t perfect. But she was profoundly loved. Her children loved her. Her husband adored her. Her siblings cherished her. And her grandchildren are at a loss. 

I can’t quite understand what eternity is like. But I know it is huge. I know it is filled, for my grandmother, with the presence of God. Feeling totally free and totally satisfied in her entire being. I know we’re all broken and undeserving in so many ways. I just can’t help but smile when I think of her standing before Jesus, dancing like she’s never danced before because she is finally home. And we’re here. Missing her. Feeling a loss. Her life was a celebration. Although I am grieving still, I can’t help but smile knowing she will never know pain again. 


Cincinnati is a beautiful city; cheerful, thriving, and animated. I have not often seen a place that commends itself so favourably and pleasantly to a stranger at the first glance as this does.

-Charles Dickens