I was at her bedside when she passed. The look in her eyes wasn't really a look. She was all but hanging on, and we knew there was nothing to do but wait until she finally slept into that peaceful sleep. I was lucky in a way, that I decided to show up on that fateful Monday, because little did I know I would have received another tearful phone call from my father, this time telling me my grandmother had passed.
I didn't cry when she stopped breathing. In an odd way, I was relieved. You absolutely hate seeing the one woman who was there for you through it all suffer and gasp for air, hardly able to speak. Yet the two memories of her I will cherish most were two very different animals...
One: upon arriving back home from her brain radiation in Houston, we sat and talked for 3 hours. We talked about everything you could imagine. We shared everything from small anecdotes about family to tears over the inevitability that came all too soon. I don't think it sank in for me enough until that night. I missed work intentionally, not calling in because I cared too much about my grandmother to miss her last moments as somebody I could talk to. And in hindsight, I'll always thank everything I have for it because that was the last conversation I had with her. And it was the best conversation of our lives. She told me, "These are the memories I cherish." As arrogant as it probably sounds, I think I cherish that particular memory more than she did because I have the "benefit" of seeing how the events from then on transpired. I'm just thankful I got to have that moment because without it, I wouldn't be able to coherently write this and tell you of such a wonderful woman.
Two: the day before she passed, the hardest day I've ever had to endure. Upon waking up, my father calls me tearfully and tells me that Grandma is slipping fast. He told me not to rush to get over there, but that was advice I'd be a fool to heed. What I saw upon entering her room horrified me. She was in and out of consciousness, and when she was in, she could hardly talk. In fact, she only said a few words to anybody...except me. She'd crack a smile here and there to show everybody the woman we loved was still kicking inside, but outside told us a different story. Yet she still mustered up the energy--at every turn--to tell me she loved me. She wouldn't talk to anybody else. She'd acknowledge them but not do much else. Yet every time I would hold her hand and tell her I love her, she would reply that she loved me back. I never knew before that that something could make me feel so important yet so conflicted at the same time. It proved how much she cared for me, when most people living wouldn't dare try to love somebody that much. That care for me has taught me so many lessons over the years and I'm finally starting to see the magnitude of it.
She wasn't scared to go. She knew where she was going and who she was going to see upon arriving. My late grandfather. Her parents. People I don't remember but people who she held so near and dear to her heart. I had this woman for eighteen years and I guess God decided it was time we share her.
I remember her voice. Her smile is still alive in pictures and in some of those photographs, her laugh rings. Two months ago, I could hug her and tell her I loved her and not have to worry that that might be the last time. A year ago, she was working and doing Antique Mall stuff with Margaret again. I would trade all the good that's happened to me personally over the past year just to have her back. I'm not sure what it will be like to live without her and honestly, I'm not even sure I'm ready to find out. This isn't a lesson anybody wants to learn.
But my grandma is happy. She's hanging out with Papa in the sky, doing God-knows-what and hopefully being proud of the impact she's made on so many people's lives. That impact on my end is larger than I think I could ever fathom, and only time will tell how much more I appreciate this beautiful woman. She was one of a kind and nobody in this world could even be tapped to replace her. There was never one before her, and never one after. And I thank God every day for the eighteen years I got to know her. And when I'm gone, I hope she'll be the first one waiting at the gates to greet me with a hug and a kiss, because that's the way she was in real life.
I love you Grandma, and I miss you more and more every day. Please know we all love you and it warms my heart to know how many people you influenced with your positive attitude and morals. I aspire to be like you in so many ways, and I hope that my children one day can have those qualities too.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you were. I'll never forget you.