Two years ago, we celebrated Fourth of July at my grandparents house. My grandma was in the last weeks of her two-year struggle with ovarian cancer, and we were all aware that this was likely the last holiday we would all be together.
As I sat and gazed at my beautiful grandmother, I thought about Thornton Wilder's "Our Town". I felt like the young female protagonist who died and visited her life as a ghost, and implored everyone to appreciate their life and loved ones while they could.
I struggled to take in every moment of the day: my family laughing as we cooked out in the backyard; sitting in the family room with my grandma and my daughter; setting off fireworks in the street while my grandma watched from the porch. She had to be so exhausted, but she stayed up and with us every moment of the day.
Eight days later, my grandmother slipped into a coma. She died on July 16, 2011.
We didn't celebrate Independence Day at all the next year.
This year we did get together for our family thing. The pain is still there but time has eased it, and now we can smile and laugh and remember without our heart always breaking in two.
This holiday, though, is no longer just a holiday. It's the last holiday I spent with my grandmother, and will always be the most precious to me.