What do you say when you know your words could be the last? Do you choose poignant ones and drop each one like a well-chosen bulb left to grow long after you’ve gone? Or do you carry on as usual and savor one last everyday conversation about your evening plans and the weather?
What do you say?
How do you walk from a room knowing when you see them again it may be on the other side of heaven? Do you walk out waving and crying and shouting “I love you’s”? Or do you leave them with one last touch of the hand and a sigh and exit with your wet eyes straight ahead?
How do you?
I stood next to my grandmother’s bed, reached over the rail, and held her hand. Her long bony fingers felt small in mine. Her skin was like the tissue paper in the top of a gift, thin and wrinkly. I stared at the veins on top of her hand and cried. “Don’t cry for me,” her words broke the silence. No tears had fallen to alert her to my distress and her dimmed eyes couldn’t see my face, but she knew. She always has.
“I’m crying for me, Grandmother,” I told her. “I’m going to miss you.” Just minutes before, she told me she was going to die. “Maybe, tonight,” she said. I couldn’t take it in. Ninety-four was a long life, but when is it ever easy to say good-bye? I stared at her wanting to say so much.
She squeezed my hand and shared, “I’ll be with you all the time. Grandmother will always be looking over you. If you need me, just call and know I’ll be sending you my love.”
I wanted to throw myself across her bed and weep. My pregnant belly, her high bed rail, the monitors she was hooked to, and my dignity kept me from it. “I’m ready to go,” she said. “I’ll just close my eyes and when I open them again, I’ll be face-to-face with Jesus.”
She wasn’t scared, but I was. Scared of the unknown. What will we do without her?
I finally rested in a chair not far away and watched her as she slept. I thought of her many stories of growing up during the depression, how to bake the best chess bars, and tales of my papaw and she when they married. I remembered the time I ran away – to her house, a mere two homes away from mine.
“Just let her stay,” I recalled her telling my mother when she came for me. “She needs some time with Grandmother and Papaw.”
I thought of all the times I’d called her upset, and she filled me with encouragement and wisdom. She has loved and lived with passion. I watched as the nurse came in to check her vitals and wondered if she realized what a living legacy was lying in that bed with white curly hair and wrinkles.
I desperately wanted to tell the nurse, “This isn’t just any ninety-four year old lady. This is…” I wondered how I would finish the sentence. What choice of words would convey exactly how I felt? Which one would accurately describe her life?
What do you say?
I looked up at the nurse, stroked the wrinkled forehead in front of me, and said it the way I knew best, “This is my grandmother.”
Her children arise and call her blessed. Proverbs 31:28 NIV