The Things My Grandmother Left Behind





The days before my grandmother died, I looked through her drawers and cabinets in her tiny apartment and found old medical and legal documents that compiled everything my grandmother was. There was one journal I found, a notepad of yellow paper filled with Bible verses. Each page was dated, “Dec 2, at 4 a.m.,” and “Aug 2, at 4:02 a.m.,” and my grandmother would jot down Proverbs and hymns every morning until her death at 4 a.m.

In the drawer where I found her journal of verses, I found a packet filled old, folded beige papers that read “History and Physical Report,” which recorded a fall she had back when I was five years old and prompted the brain surgery my grandmother needed due to a tumor lodged in her skull. It read:

Date of Admission: 01/06/93.

Clinical History: This 71-year-old, Filipino, female was admitted with a history of a fall and a questionable loss of consciousness. The patient is known to me form admission 1 ½ years ago with a very large left frontotemporal meningioma. (S)He had a craniotomy and did great; besides some residual dysphagia, the patient was doing fine until this event happened. Immediately after the fall, she was brought to the Emergency Room where she became confused and listless. A CT scan of the brain was done which showed an epidural hematoma.

Objective Examination (General): The patient is awake, sleepy, and confused to time/place/person.

(Plan): The patient urgently will be taken to surgery for a craniotomy as well as evacuation of the epidural hematoma. The procedure and risks were fully discussed with the patient’s family and they understood.


My grandmother wrote on the top of the beige paper in her cursive I knew so well: “Pacita’s History of Brain Tumor Operation.” The doctor’s description called her a female, but typed “He” on the second line of the clinical history. She wrote in the extra “S.” Her “S” was bent and darkened over with her pen, as if she wanted to make the ink as dark as the printed letters of the report, as if she disagreed with everything the doctor had said. She was a she.

The doctor also wrote in the report that if the surgery were performed, she would become fragile and her life shortened. It was recorded in 1993. She didn’t die until 19 years later. The doctor, again, was wrong.

She wrote on the bottom margin: “2012: I am still alive.”

She crossed out the lines: “The patient is awake, sleepy, and confused to time/place/person.” She wrote underneath them: “I am in the hospital and it is 1993. I hear fine.”

They say that hearing is the last thing to leave us before death. There is no scientific evidence that proves this. But the days before she died, I sung to her the Proverbs she wrote in her journal every early morning at 4 a.m. She would shake her body and her tears would come. Even with a life apparatus tube lodged down her throat, she shook her body to tell the world she was alive.






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