Winter has always been my least favorite season. I moved to Minnesota nearly a decade ago but have yet to adapt to the bitterly cold months that comprise so much of our year, and February, in my humble opinion, is the worst of all. By the time it arrives, the novelty of the new year has faded, and so has my resolve to embrace winter. Without fail, I spend each February yearning for warmer, brighter days. 

This year, my beloved grandmother died on Feb. 19, making an already cold and gloomy month feel all the more so. 

Her death is the first I've experienced as an adult, and perhaps because I hadn't really undergone the loss of a loved one before, I likewise hadn't paid the act of grieving much mind. In the weeks since, I've found myself a student, albeit an unwilling one, in what it means to grieve. 

When we received word that the cancer we thought was in my grandmother's past had not only returned but was now terminal, my family gathered in Michigan to be with her and with one another. I will forever remember those days as both heavy and light, full of bizarrely beautiful paradoxes.

I grimaced seeing my strong, spirited grandmother confined to her bed, looking weak and pale, but I also smiled through our conversations about faith and our family and my newly-adopted cat. I wept thinking about a new chapter in life without her, but I also laughed through my time with faraway relatives, grateful for the opportunity to be together.

Two weeks later, I returned to Michigan for my grandma's funeral. It was, and is, hard to come to terms with the fact that she is gone, and not merely a few states and a timezone away like she was for so much of my life. But the hardest days were softened by the people I spent them with: immediate and extended family members, and my grandma's seemingly endless circle of friends. 

We felt her loss acutely that weekend, but we also felt the love she poured into the world and each of our lives. In the midst of mourning my grandmother's death, celebrating her life brought us a profound sense of peace. I was floored by the joy that came to me, joy that may not have saved my aching heart but did, at least, keep it afloat.

I have long admired how intentionally my grandma met life. She cared deeply for others, fervently believed in a more just and peaceful world, and worked tirelessly to bring that world closer to our own. I have since come to admire how intentionally she met death, too—with openness, acceptance and an abiding faith that it was not truly the end. 

I know that throughout my life, more grief will come my way, and my own death will eventually befall me, too. I am, paradoxically, frightened of the unknown and hopeful that something better lies ahead. I am eager to find out what.

In the meantime, I want to strive to live a life that looks a bit more like my grandma's and try to embrace the lessons that seasons of grief, and perhaps even winter, can teach me.

Elizabeth Callen is a staff writer and reporter for the Lowdown. She can be reached at 651-407-1229 or

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