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Pencil Shavings | Tessa Blair

Photo credit: Bobby Jones

A dead body is still. It isn’t still like a sleeping body is. Sleeping bodies have personality, warmth, movement, life. A dead body is just still.

Our brains aren’t used to seeing bodies lie still. When I saw her there, almost a year ago, her chest moved in and out with breath—except that it didn’t. I saw when it had stopped moving hours earlier, but my brain couldn’t accept it.

How could a body lie still, without even a trace of life? It was something I wasn’t used to seeing, and that no one should be used to seeing.

This body I had hugged, that had held me as a baby, that had once been my grandma just lied still.

But it wasn’t the body it had been; its inhabitant had left.

As my family sat around the room, hugging, crying, waiting, it became obvious. This body hadn’t been my grandma—it had only been a part of her.

A person is not reducible to the body they inhabit, nor are they reducible to the things they do. A person is a complex combination of physical, intellectual, abstract attributes that uniquely mix to create something unreplicable—a person is not something that can be defined. The fact that a person is made up of more than just their physical matter is how my grandma lives on.

I don’t mean it in a spiritual way, or a “she lives in our hearts and memories” kind of way either. I mean it literally.

Much of what she was is gone. But not all the things that were essentially a part of her are. I see her every time my mom smiles and her eyes crinkle around the edges just as my grandma’s had. I see her in my brother when he listens to someone talk, the same level of genuine care as she did. I hear her in my sister when she speaks with my grandma’s same tonality and cadence.

All these traits are a part of who she was—and they are still here.

Her body may be gone, her self and person have left, but her influence remains. There is a physical part of her left in every person she’s ever met.

And though she’ll never be able to see me graduate college, find a career, or start a family, I know I’ll see her there—every step of the way.

Tessa Blair
Tessa Blair

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