It'll take a long time to get used to the idea that I’ll never get to see her laugh again. For the last 30 years of my life, she’s always been … there. So much love and support, such a wonderful sense of humor. I’m glad I have a dash of hoarding in me because I’ve saved many of the cards she’s sent me over the years.
(Which makes me think of Grandma saving bushels of plastic bags, which exploded hilariously from her unused dishwasher when you’d open it.)
We arrived at her residence home Sunday prepared to say our final good-byes. She’d been with hospice volunteers for days, fading fast. Still, I wasn’t prepared for how tiny and withered she seemed in her gown, for the rattling in her breath. Once a blooming flower, red and lush and fragrant, dancing in the slightest sunny breeze, now a fragile autumn leaf.
I sat next to her and stroked her hair. “Hi Grandma.” It was all I could croak out. Her eyelids fluttered. Somewhat restless, she seemed to be trying to speak, but maybe it was just her body preparing to go (or trying to hold on?).
I came to say good-bye, and I said hello. Is that what the Beatles were getting at? I like to think that in her final hour, oxygen and morphine sanding the rough edges from the pain, maybe she interpreted my words as coming from a loved one who died before her, welcoming her to the afterlife. Perhaps her beloved daughter Lynda.
She died while I was watching my darling 3 year-old nephew in the day room. He didn’t seem to understand what was happening in the other room, but he was understandably averse to spending his free time with a bunch of mopey grown-ups. We built a Lincoln Log house and tossed giant sponge dice around. I felt guilty for gently shushing him, for not visiting Grandma more often, for not thinking of anything comforting or interesting to say to the other ancient residents hunched over their well-balanced, bland meals next to us.
Grandma died surrounded by family and loved ones, my Dad holding his Mom’s hand as her pulse slowed and finally flickered out.
There are worse ways to go, I comfort myself and rationalize. A long, fruitful life, we can’t live forever, surrounded by loved ones in those waning minutes…
Still, I'll miss the heck out of her.
I don't know what she's laughing at here, but I love this picture. The towel is draped behind her because minutes earlier, she'd spilled that classy juice glass of boxed white zinfandel all down her pants. Seconds later, her glass refilled, she was good as new.