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Chocolate Applesauce Cupcakes

by Jenna Bygall about a month ago in grief
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on decade-old grief

Today was the ten-year anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I was 14 at the time, and 14-year-old me didn’t really have any understanding of death or grieving a loved one. So for a few years, it was just really sad. And as much as I despise myself for this, with each passing year I started to forget the anniversary altogether.

Today I woke up and decided to run a few errands. I went to the bank, got gas, grabbed a coffee, and stopped at Target. I obviously spent more than I should’ve, then I went home. I got home and repotted a few plants, watered all my other plants, washed my sheets and did another load of laundry, vacuumed, and did some dishes. I wandered the house, noticed that my prayer plant sprouted a cute ‘lil flower for the first time ever, and snapped a picture to my best friend. Somewhere in the middle of all that my phone buzzed – family group chat nonsense, probably.

“10 years today 😣❤️ Think I might make some chocolate applesauce cupcakes.”

My mom had sent that text with a few really old pictures of my grandma with some of the grandkids. And do you want to know what my first thought was?

Uh, that photo was taken way more than ten years ago, what the hell.

After too many moments in thought, it dawned on me. It was today in 2012 that we lost her to ovarian cancer. I felt like the absolute biggest, steaming pile of garbage that had ever existed. It hit me like a train. Like a Mike Tyson uppercut to the gut. In my ignorance, I had failed to give her memory the love and care it deserves. I was ashamed of myself.

Now you’re probably wondering what chocolate applesauce cupcakes are. Well, they’re exactly what they sound like. And they were my grandma’s favorite. So even though I live a couple hours away now, I hope my mom spent time today baking and feeling her own mom’s spirit with her.

Once the tidal wave of self-loathing receded just a little, I thought about it. And naturally, I sent another snapchat to my best friend rambling about how much I missed my grandma today. Her response reduced me to a stupid, blathering, mushy puddle of tears.

“She’s so proud of you. That flower was her saying hello.”

None of my houseplants have ever sprouted flowers. How could it possibly be mere coincidence that I found one today? I mean, scientifically, it’s mere coincidence. But I knew then, that I had spent the entire day with my grandma without realizing it.

I went to the bank. I filled my gas tank. I went to Target. I put clean sheets on my bed. I vacuumed. I watered my plants. I opened a window to let the fresh air in. I put some lavender oil in the diffuser.

As I sat on my floor crying thanks to my sappy, sentimental best friend, I wondered that my grandma had thousands of days just like that. She took immense pride in her clean, well-decorated, welcoming home. There was never a piece out of place, never a speck of dust in sight. It was cozy and comfortable, decorated thoughtfully by her hand to be a gathering place for her family. The realization felt like love; it felt like gratefulness. It felt like she would have loved to spend today with me, doing exactly what I was doing.

And when we were done, she’d send me to her guest bedroom, tuck me in, sneak me a bowl of ice cream, and say goodnight. In the morning she’d make me scrambled eggs (that no one has topped to this day), and eventually she’d walk me home, which was right across the road, close enough for her to keep an eye on her family.

So I cried today. I spent a lot of time thinking about my grandma. Would she be proud of me? I think so. She was kind, gentle, generous to a fault, and loved her family beyond words. In my most important moments, she was there to celebrate me. Not a single report card went uncelebrated, not a single holiday felt unimportant. She was the lynchpin, and our lives haven’t been the same without her for a single day these last ten years.

My point is, sometimes you can’t grieve fully until you’re old enough to understand what you’ve lost. I think my brain waited until the right moment to take a day to fully realize the impact my grandma had on my life and the legacy that I get to carry on until my last breath. We all know the old “grief isn’t linear” saying feels overused, but it’s not wrong. I think our loved ones would forgive us for getting caught up in the chaos of life after they leave us. Even when you're not thinking of them, they're with you. My grandma guides my hand with every gift I pick out for people I love, my hot cocoa is always made with milk, and listening to Lady Antebellum makes me cry.

Today I’m thinking about my grandma in all the little moments. I’m feeling her presence in every breeze that blows through my window and every bird that stops by my bird feeder. There will never be an unappreciated flower on a houseplant, for the rest of my days.


About the author

Jenna Bygall

Just a 24-year-old Central New York girl who loves houseplants and fantasy novels. Writing about whatever feels important at the moment in this brain of mine.

Follow me on Instagram or Twitter!

My editing work is here.


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