About two weeks before my grandmother passed away my family spent a few minutes alone with her in her hospital room. Even though I knew her body was failing it didn't really sink in until I saw her in her bed, looking feeble and tired, that I would be saying Goodbye. My stomach clenched up and I felt a bit of panic, knowing how important the next 15 minutes would be. How do you say Goodbye? How can you communicate a lifetime of love and significance in a few words?
I wished I could give her comfort - she would be going somewhere new very soon, and having new experiences. Who wouldn't feel a little nervous? I wanted to summarize her influence in my life. Had I ever told her how important she was to me? I wanted her to comfort me, to share with me her warmth and humor and wisdom one more time. I wanted to soak in her voice, the way she said my name; her eyes, their particular brown hue; her hands, her crippled fingers; the feel of her always-smooth skin.
It wasn't enough time, but it was all I had.
She took a moment to hug and talk to each of my children, listening patiently as they went on and on. Privately, I was hurrying them. They didn't know how precious each minute was. But I wanted them to remember this day and their feelings, so I didn't rush them.
Finally, Spouse took the children out of the room to give me some time alone. I took her small hand and stroked her almost translusent skin. These hands crocheted me a matching skirt and sweater set when I was eight. She crocheted me many sweaters over the years. I remember one that I couldn't get over my head because the neck was too small! Where are all those precious things now? Why didn't I keep even one? How did she make so many things with arthritis in her thumbs?
"I love you Grandma. I'm going to miss you."
"I'm going to miss you too, Jen. But I'm going to be watching over you. That will be me over your shoulder telling you what to do."
"You are so special to me Grandma. You have made me happy in so many ways."
"You are special to me too, Jen. I love you."
I put my cheek next to hers and felt her familiar softness. I breathed in deeply, trying to inhale her scent, to keep it with me. I kissed her head and she kissed my cheek.
I looked at her for another moment. Her eyes were looking up at me. They looked hopeful, peaceful. Ready.
Down the hallway there was a private place with chairs and a big window overlooking the Salt Lake Valley to the west. I sat there processing, grieving. Through my tears I watched a commuter train stop and people get on and off. In the distance the Oquirrh Mountains stood tall, creating shadows. Green trees filled the valley. An airplane was climbing into the sky.
I thought of my grandmother, just down the hall, sharing this view with me and wondered how it might feel to say goodbye to this life, to this earthly home - this marvelous earth and sublime life experience.
Life is so good. It is hard and terrible. It is beautiful and heart-breaking. The earth is a wonder - pulsing with power and energy. The smallest particles are miraculous.
I hope to be like my grandmother. I hope to be able to say goodbye to earth with honor, having worked and struggled and sacrificed but having found joy. Joy in relationships, nature and God. I hope to leave this earth a little brighter.
|Here is Grandma last October, meeting Baby E|
|July, 2005 at her home in Germantown, Ohio.|
|I love this picture because this is how I remember her most, laughing! October 2004, Ohio|
|This 2004 trip to Ohio is a special memory for me. I got Grandma all to myself!|