My Grandma’s Yerbas

Issue No. 3: Words from the Wise
Illustration - Cat Willett


Rays of light crept into the room and mixed with a cloud of cigarette smoke
I sat on the bed and watched her rummage through a drawer in search of something
She stood up; she had found it
In her hand was a clear stone, one I had not seen before
She directed me into the kitchen, where I stood with my eyes closed
Starting with my head, she swept the stone all over my body;
whispering words I could not understand
After this, she heated up a skillet on the stove-top and
without hesitation, she threw the stone onto it and walked away
Next to the pan was a pot filled with water and various herbs
A yerba
Steam rose as the water bubbled; my stomach turned
She poured the tea back and forth, from one cup into the other
Repeating this several times
I counted nine
I felt the hot tea run down my throat as I drank it
To my surprise, it did not taste as bad as the other ones
Like the ones with lemon and onions
The ones I did not like
Sweat trickled down my temple, but I already felt much better
I waited as she and my mother discussed my illness
She looked at the melted remains of the stone and pointed her finger
“¿Lo miras?
Un esqueleto
Aquí están los ojos y esto es el cuerpo
Es lo que asustó al nene”
My mother and I instantly knew what she was referring to
We had gone to Party City a few days prior
and the Halloween decorations were already on display
A bloody skeleton being their main attraction
But how would she know this?
How was she able to see that?
I was six then, I am twenty now
And the questions still remain
But there is one thing I know for sure
She is my grandma, and I love her so much
I would do anything for her, just as she would for me
Even in her most vulnerable state she would put our needs before her own
Last November, a week after my birthday, my grandpa passed away
They had been together for sixty-nine years
I can still hear her loud cries asking him why he left her

El amor de su vida
I sat next to her, on the same bed that I sat on as a child,
and I held her
I felt useless, I knew there was nothing I could do to take away her pain
No herb, no stone could alleviate the sorrow and emptiness that she was experiencing
After a couple of hours, she walked into the living room and sat with the rest of the family
Her hysteria had subsided and only quiet tears rolled down her face
She told me that she was worried about my mom
I was too
My mother is the strongest person in my life
She hardly ever cries, and she always seems to handle difficult situations with ease
My mother had spent the day talking to the funeral home, paramedics and insurance personnel
Running around looking for documents; she had kept busy
Until now
She finally had a chance to sit in the silence
And then, like a violent tidal wave on an unsuspecting shore
It hit her
The truthful tragedy of her father’s passing pierced into her heart like a knife
She began to pant and cry, holding her head as if it was going to explode
She was hot, beads of sweat ran down her face and mixed with tears that streamed from her eyes
She tried to calm herself down, splashing cold water onto her face and neck
Nausea creeped into her head, making her gag as if she needed
To vomit some sort of dark entity within her
But nothing came out
She sat down, my grandmother stood up
“¿A donde vas?” everyone asked my grandma as she shakingly made her way to her room
“A curar a Sandra”
I was in shock
Less than five hours ago, my grandmother watched as they threw my grandfather’s body onto
the floor and tried to revive his already lifeless corpse
She had lost the only love of her entire life
The man she met when she was sixteen
The father of her seven children
She had lost her entire world
But even now, in her darkest of hours, she stood up
She rummaged through the same drawer, and pulled out a clear stone
Piedra Alumbre
She told me to call my mother into the room, so I obeyed
She laid my mother down and swept the stone all over her body
Across her chest, down her arms
She did the sign of the cross and whispered the now familiar words
My eight year old sister watched and with tears in her eyes she asked me
“What is she doing?
What’s wrong with mom?

Geo, is she gonna be okay?”
“Yes,” I said
“Mom is going to be just fine”
I had to explain that grandma was a healer
She had not been born when my grandmother had retired her craft
She had never felt the heat of a fresh brewed yerba
I held her, and we both cried
My grandmother walked into the kitchen, heated up a skillet and threw the stone onto it
We all stood around the stove, waiting for the stone to melt
Waiting for the culprit to reveal itself
When it finally cooled, my grandmother pointed her finger
On the pan was what looked like a body in a coffin, with little skulls around its head and feet
My mother had been horrified by my grandfather’s sudden death
Her worst fear had become real life, and her body could not take it
My little sister looked at the pan, but could not see what we saw
I tried to show her, pointing out what looked like the head, showing her the little skulls
But nothing
She wondered how I was able to see it
Why she was unable to make out the image that me and my grandmother described
I wondered too
My mother told us that she felt better, we could notice
Her face had returned to cool shade of beige, her voice returned to its normal softness
We all sighed in relief
We walked into the living room and sat down
Exchanged our favorite memories of my grandpa
Each one of us spoke about our unique experiences
We laughed, we cried
But most importantly
We healed