A letter to my Grandma McKenzie


Dear Grandma –

Today marks two years since you left this world. I had hoped I’d be writing to you today to tell you that we’ve elected our first female president and tell you how much I wish you had been here to see it happen. Instead, I’m left bewildered and confused as I come to the realization that our country has elected, possibly, the most dangerously unqualified candidate to ever have run for the office. I wonder what you would say to me if you were here – I think you’d share my outrage and you would encourage me to make good use of it. I think you’d reassure me that the world is fundamentally good and I should not let this rob me of my optimism. I think you’d say that this is not the time to become complacent, to give up or to feel resentful. You would want me to collect what is left of my idealistic views and cobble it back together into a new foundation of strength and empowerment.

Although I do not get to share with you the news that I had hoped, I want to share with you what is inspiring me today.

My mother. This incredible woman that you raised has never waivered in her support for me and my goals. She’s been a reassuring touchstone for me in my most difficult moments and it is from that strength that I’m able to stand tall today and believe in a better tomorrow.

My friends. This morning I reached out to some of my closest female friends. I wanted them to know I was worried, too, but also that I am still here and together we are not giving up. Grandma, I think you’d be truly proud of the women I have surrounded myself with; they are some of the strongest people I have ever met. I sometimes feel that I, alone, cannot have an impact – but all I have to do is look at those around me to know that the change is coming. We are creating it, every day.

My beloved Minnesota. Our country may have made a grave decision last night, but our state did the right thing. We choose the right person, and although it ultimately does not matter – it matters to me, and I think it would to you, too. Not only did we choose to vote for equality, not division, for love, not hate, in our president – we showed our country that we value diversity and elected our first Somali-American to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Moreover, Grandma, this new Representative is a woman, and she won by a landslide. Progress is here, it is happening.

The last two years have seen a lot of big changes in my life. As I skipped onto each one of these milestones I felt pings of pain, yearning for your presence and wondering if you ever knew how much you meant to me. Perhaps no day more than today, is your loss more prominently felt in my life. Today I need your independent bullheaded strength more than ever. As I sit here and run my fingers over the sapphire stone of the ring you gave me when I graduated from undergrad, I recommit myself to my own empowerment. One person, not even a US President, can stop me from changing the world.

Love you. Miss you. Every day.


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