I thought about her so much yesterday as I was writing this. Within seconds of finishing it, I received the call that she passed.
A gnawing at the edges beneath my rib cage confirmed what I already knew. She looked so small, so crumpled in the wheelchair, breathing tubes in her nostrils, IVs and machines attached to her wrist. The sour air in the nursing home was hard to take, but watching the beautiful mind of my grandmother struggle beneath her 95 year old shrinking body of bones and skin was almost unbearable. Her strong blue eyes softened as she drew them up to mine, both of us crying now, both of us shriveling at the heartbreak of saying goodbye. I reached for her frail body and rested my chin on her bony shoulder. “I love you”, I whispered into her ear. Her tiny arms did their best to wrap around me one last time and she whispered back “I love you too, thank you for being a wonderful granddaughter.” And I clung, I clung to every last memory–our road trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway, our epic cookie making holidays, BBQ’s spent at her lakehouse, learning how to fish on her dock. She, the only grandmother I’ve ever known, was fading from me and there was nothing tangible I could hold onto except a fragment of her little, naked body under an ugly, blue, hospital gown.
And then I remembered.
I remembered the strong, proud woman that supported and encouraged me through the years, the woman who loved to sing, play the harpischord and survived 3 cancers. I remembered her love for crossword puzzles, pumpkin pie and rivel soup. I remembered her caregiving, generous heart and how she nursed my sick father until his last breath. I remembered that no matter how much aging or disease takes from any of our bodies, what remains is the impenetrable imprint of love on the all lives that we’ve ever touched and that touched us back.
I finally pulled back and looked into her eyes one last time, noticing they really were no longer blue, but a light, hollow gray. She smiled at me, reached for my hands, and we gazed at each other in saturated silence as all that was left to say hung in the air between us. I leaned in, kissed her on the cheek and hugged her one last time.
I walked out backwards from her room, pressed my fingers to my lips and blew whatever I had left into the air, as if it could ever be enough.
RIP Grandma. I love you.