The last time I held my Grandmother's hand was a year and a day ago.
My husband took a long lunch so I could go sit with her alone. I drove a few miles away to the house where the nurses were taking care of her. I was greeted by smell of a lovely aromatic lunch. I was sad because I know she wouldn't be able to eat it. In fact the only thing she had eaten in days was a little dessert. as I suppose it should be in your last days.
I peeked in her bright room with pink walls and lace curtains, just like her bedroom at home. It was quite fitting for the petite Avon lady and Valentine's day baby that she was. She was asleep, as usual. I went to greet every housemate and nurse then retreated to her room. I sat between her and the big picture window, her only view of the world outside, and took her hand. I listened to her deep and shallow breath. Tears welled up as I knew we didn't have too much time left.
I didn't want to wake her. I knew how tired she was. Being there was enough.
After about twenty minutes she woke up and gently smiled. "How are you? Where's ZR?" I told her that he was at home. She sure adored her great grandson.
She was weak and couldn't sit up. I helped give her water and clean her mouth, which I was surprised she even let me do. She held onto every thread of her dignity.
I noticed she was looking at the picture of her and Grandfather, and her parents, all in one frame. She pointed at them and said, "They follow me everywhere I go. They are always with me." I teared up. She just smiled bigger than I had seen in a long time.
Have you ever felt peaceful, totally scared shitless and covered in goosebumps all at once? Well, that's how I felt.
It was her way of telling me she was ready. She showed me that she had found peace in what was about to happen. I had been so scared she hadn't found peace or acceptance, as much as anyone could, until that very moment. She didn't talk about dying much but had cracked her shell once to tell me she was afraid. I did my best to just listen and love. What could I say? I had no idea.
She didn't explain any further. Sometimes words just aren't necessary.
She was tired again, and I knew it was about time for me to have to leave. We said our goodbyes, hugged and kissed. She asked me if I was coming back with ZR. I said I would. I blew her a kiss and she smiled and blew one back. Then I walked out the door with the picture of her smiling in my mind.
That night I was so tired, cranky and exhausted, being three months pregnant and constantly nauseous, and Z wasn't in the best mood. I called to see if she was awake. She wasn't. So I decided not to go back. I went to see her twice most days. The nurse said she would tell her I checked on her.
It would be a decision I will live to regret the rest of my life.
When the knock came at 5:30 the next morning, I was dazed and exhausted. My husband went to answer it and I heard quiet voices then steps heading upstairs. He quietly said, "You're Grandmother is gone." I grabbed my phone that I had accidentally left downstairs -five missed calls and several messages. I threw on some clothes and exited into the freezing January morning air to say goodbye.
It was one of the hardest days of my life. I am so grateful that I had her for thirty years. We had such a special bond and sometimes it's hard to believe she is actually gone.
I don't know what I believe about the afterlife, but I believe she is still with us in some form. When Z asks where heaven is, the only word I can find to describe it, I tell him, "In your heart. Heaven is in our hearts and is with us always. We can't see it but we know it is there. Anyone in heaven can hear us but we just can't see them. GG is listening anytime you want to talk to her."
Rest in Peace, Grandmother. I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck. Thank you for my life and everything you taught me. I miss you.
The song above, Waiting on an Angel by Ben Harper, was on the CD I chose for our road trip to her funeral. Of course, I sobbed as soon as I heard the first few lines, as it perfectly described how my Grandmother felt in her last day. What an amazing find at such a time in my life.
The universe works in mysterious ways.