6 Minutes with The Shoe Project
Vancouver, The BMO Theatre Centre, January 2020
When I was leaving for Canada, my grandmother hugged me and gave me her blessing. She was so beautiful and healthy. I’m the first granddaughter of 19 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, so we had always been very close.
I came to Canada with my husband and my 8-year-old son looking for a better life, but at first, it was not easy. I felt totally out of place with my beginner’s English. Also, in Vancouver’s rainy climate, my feet were always soaking wet.
After 8 months of living in Vancouver, I received the worst news of my life. My grandmother was diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer. My crying mother called me. How could I support her from so far away? I wanted to cry myself because I had believed my grandmother would be eternal.
I went with my son to Brazil that same week. As soon as I arrived, I visited my grandmother. She had just had surgery. We chose not to tell her about her diagnosis. The days that followed were very difficult but filled with love.
“Honey, your mother and I will always be with you wherever you are. We won’t be able to carry you in our arms anymore, but we will support you.”
I spent a month in Brazil and the hardest thing was seeing this disease taking over my grandma’s body. She got worse and returned to the hospital. I took turns with my mother and my aunts taking care of her. She moaned in pain, but I could only stroke her face and take her hands in mine and pray while the nurses offered medication. It was hard, too, seeing my mother swallow her tears. I tried to be strong so I could help and only cried later in the bathroom when I was alone.
One day while my mother was with my grandmother, I saw a pair of boots in her bedroom. They were brown with wedge heels and zippers. When I put them on, I felt them hugging my feet. I asked my mother about them. She answered, “Honey, I bought the wrong size. If you like them, they’re yours.”
I was excited and I answered: “Mom, in Canada my cloth boots are always wet. These boots are perfect.”
Since the moment I put on those boots, I rarely took them off. They brought me back to Canada and to my husband. I returned to my routine and continued studying. One month later I received the news that my eternal grandmother had passed away.
I remembered how she told me, “We’re happy you’re in that beautiful country. When I’m better, I’ll visit you. But please come back to Brazil at Christmas for our family celebration.”
We did not celebrate Christmas at all that year.
But I kept on wearing the boots. One day I remembered my grandmother’s words the last day I saw her. “Honey, your mother and I will always be with you wherever you are. We won’t be able to carry you in our arms anymore, but we will support you.”
In these boots, I am protected. My mother and grandmother walk with me.
My very ill grandmother gave me the most beautiful lesson from her hospital bed: enjoy life and face any challenge. Family is a pair of open, waiting arms.
I do not know how I will feel this Christmas when I visit Brazil and enter my grandmother’s house. Will it be a nightmare? If so, I will hug her and look into her eyes and say, “I am glad you’re here Grandma. We’ll dream together.”
And she will answer me, “Honey, wake up. Put on those boots because this floor is cold. Come have the fresh coffee and cookies that your grandma has prepared for you.”