This. This is one of the most precious moments that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. This is my grandmother in her last moments and my mom beside her. This is life. This is death. This is beautiful. Life is so fragile, changeable, unpredictable, yet even when you expect something to happen, it still takes your breath away when it actually does.
My grandmother was an anchor in our lives. She was just always there, ready with a warm hug, soft bed, or a huge southern meal (even if you weren’t hungry). But, oooh, her southern cookin’! Fried chicken, hand-rolled biscuits, chicken and dumplings, corn on the cob, butter beans, boiled peanuts, peach cobbler…and that was often in the same meal! She never said so, but it seemed she felt it was her sole responsibility in life to take care of others, no matter the cost, and that she could do it better than anyone else. This was how she loved, and now she’s gone, and so is that fierce, protective, loyal, self-sacrificing, anchoring love.
I’ve struggled with being “productive” in my business the last couple of days. I find my mind wandering, tears springing to my eyes, or long distant memories bubbling up to the surface. I’m finding it hard to hold both present and past in equal parts…like I’m holding onto two helium balloons and if I don’t pay attention to both I’ll get distracted, let one go, and it will just float away. I’m realizing that what I’m experiencing must be grief. I remember the stages of grief from my nursing education. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Why is there no stage for regret at not calling your grandma enough, or missing her laugh, or the grief you feel at seeing someone else’s grief? Perhaps I need to create my own stages.
My grandmother was afraid of dying. She had told my mom this more than once, but she did so bravely, and peacefully, surrounded by her three daughters, surrounded by love. I have wanted many things in my life, success, a beautiful home, comfort and security, but when you boil away all the extras what you’re left with is love. Love is the undercurrent that pulls us all back to each other. It is an invisible, unrelenting force that gives everything else meaning. It is also my grandmother’s hug, it’s her warm peach cobbler, it’s her freshly laundered sheets on the bed that she made for me. Love is an anchor.
By the end of this I’d hoped to have some triumphant “moral of the story” or leave you with a great lesson about how I rose from the depths of despair so you can too, but it’s too fresh, too raw, too soon. All I can say is this, be brave, like my grandma. Live brave, love brave, be brave enough to leave this world a better place than you found it, and when it’s your time to move on, do so bravely. I learned this from my grandmother’s last moments; even the things you fear the most, you can face bravely. Life’s too short to do anything else, even if it’s 91 years.