open sky, heavy heart

“When I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn’t do. All that I might have been and couldn’t be. All the choices I didn’t make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven’t been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed.”

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Other Wind

I write, have learned to write, these blogs for an intended audience. Now, that audience is no longer with us. A hemisphere away, a continent off, my maternal grandmother, Katherine James, passed away peacefully this week.

No matter where I was, or what I was doing, I knew that she was out there to listen to and encourage me. I can’t imagine the hurt my mother, my uncles, and aunt feel this week. Kathy was a wholly different person to them, she provided and sacrificed so much for them, and shaped their worlds. To me, she was my first peer. She taught and listened to and argued with me. She supported my dreams and my imagination and was always willing to humor my rambling. I saw her as my grandmother, but more-so my friend.

Young people will always regret their limited time with their elders, and I’m no exception. If I was smarter, or more future-sighted, or if things were different, I would have had a deeper, more important, more powerful relationship with her. Anyone who knew her would have. I would have known that you eventually lose grandmas, and I would’ve acted accordingly.

I learned of her passing, and I write this missive, from a room buried in the Atacama desert, waiting to observe the heavens. 9000 kilometers from her. Many lifetimes from her. The creeping realization that all I have left of her is the imprint, the intersection, of our lives, weighs particularly heavy. That those foggy memories of her visits, of my visits, are all that remain. The hill in La Grande, the trips to Powell’s books, the conversations at Christmas.

I only knew her as a grandmother, at which she excelled. I hope she knew how fantastic she was at it.

I took these photos of the Atacama sky to send to her. I suppose, since I’m still writing these blogs the way I always do, to my intended audience, I’ll leave them here.






3 responses to “open sky, heavy heart”

  1. Jerry Harmon Avatar
    Jerry Harmon

    She loved reading your thoughts Will, as I do. I hope you keep writing here because it does help us know you better even when we are so separated. I hope you know that we think of you everyday and wonder how your life is going.

    I know what you mean about Kathy being your audience, it feels like she was one of the main people in my life who was really rooting for me and truly loved hearing any news about my life. Please know that your family is also gladly watching you from afar and would do anything for you.

    When you were in a senior in high school, Kathy and I got into a spirited de ate about your future. I was thinking you should look into something that would have a guaranteed job after college graduation, some thing that would set you up for financial stability. Kathy was adamant that you follow your dreams and do whatever it was that made you happy. I know you have had your share of struggles. I hope you know how proud she was of you, how proud we all are of you.

    Love you Will.
    Uncle Jer

  2. Prajval Shastri Avatar
    Prajval Shastri

    What courage to share these personal thoughts and lace them with inimitable words from my favourite – Ursula Leguin! I hopped here from your piece about GradStudent organising in astrobites – such a good piece that was but this…this is something else…. it plays a glorious “plagal cadence” that sings the beauty and power of what it is to be truly human – truly part of collective humanity…. Do keep writing….

    1. William Avatar

      thank you for the kind words! i honestly never expect people to read these things, and its such a pleasant surprise and honor when folks enjoy them!

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