My grandma is nearing the end of her journey here with us. She has steadily declined the last few months. She has Parkinson’s and two too many bouts with shingles over the years. Nevertheless, it is a mix of emotions for me.
I have experienced death all too close to home in my life, as many of us have, and it has been a fear of mine since. I lost my dad at the age of 17 in a train accident. Followed by my grandpa the following year. So needless to say, my world as a young girl was pretty much turned upside down (posts for a later date). I haven’t encountered too much of death since then but have always been afraid of it since how it felt very deeply all those years ago.
But this time something is different. Maybe it’s knowing that my grandma has had a wonderful and fulfilling life. Maybe it’s knowing my grandpa is waiting anxiously to dance with her again. Maybe it’s her smile, that my daughter describes as the moon, (since it lights up the dark) engrained in my mind. Maybe it’s knowing/feeling how much she loves me or being able to say those goodbyes just in case every time I leave her. Whatever it is – it feels different.
I grew up so very close with my grandparents. I absolutely adored them and cherish the memories I have of my time with them. Memories of the nights I spent at their home, where spaghetti (staple of my Italian side), coffee, and special breakfasts my papa made me filled the air, the late nights spent playing 500 Rummy with my grandma until I eventually beat her and she would get so upset in the most loving way I’ve ever seen! Memories of the vacations spent in their RV, learning to rollerblade in their front yard, or driving around in my papa’s white Volkswagen “bug.”
These moments are very closely tied to my heart. These are the moments I choose to remember as I go visit her daily and see her unable to speak anymore or hardly even smile. I try to reciprocate all that she has given me by the small things I can do now -massaging her head, playing music she remembers, giving her comfy pillows, and showing her pictures. Even though she can’t say “I love you,” as I lay there with her in her bed, maintaining eye contact the whole time – which is her form of communication now – I feel her love deep in my soul. A love only a grandma can give, love through her eyes, hugs, and words that could heal or fix anything. The kind of love that I hope and pray I can give my grandchildren one day. I have been blessed with a wonderful example in my grandma; I will pass on and cherish those memories, traditions, conversations, and mostly… love. And most of all, I will cherish every moment I have left with her.