Yesterday (right after I hit the send button on the last post, actually), my paternal grandmother became unresponsive and was placed on life support. The hospice team has now stepped in, and so we are now playing the waiting game, standing close by and awaiting her suffering to end.
My grandmother was a wonderful grandmother. She kept this huge pitcher with lemons on it in her fridge at all times and she filled it with Tang. She called it "Grandma's Special" and of course, whenever I was at her house, I drank gallons of it. Once, my mom told me it was just Tang and made me some at home. It did not taste the same--Grandma's Special was otherworldly, divine in its sweetness.
I wish I could say something here about death that is poignant and lovely, but I can't. My grandmother is dying from a score of health problems, not the least of them being stage 4 melanoma. For her, death is not poetic or heroic. It is grisly and ugly and wrong. My only hope is that she is already in another place, and the shell of her body that we see now is not indicative of how she feels or the pain that she is experiencing.
Perhaps because of this, I keep thinking back at this one moment, tiny and small in the whole scheme of my life but that which plays over and over in my mind. My grandfather, her husband, passed away when I was in 7th grade. My mom picked me up from school and told me, and drove me to the tiny town nestled between three large mountains and a river where my grandparents lived. When we got there, my grandmother was standing in her living room, which was, of course, amazingly spotless--I have never been to my grandparents house when I was not able to see myself in the reflection of all her tables. She was wearing a purple silk blouse, beige slacks and gold jewelry. Her hair was done. She talked to my mom for a bit--despite my parent's divorce, my mom and grandmom always got along well--and I remember her saying that before he left the house for the last time, my grandfather had told her that she "looked nice." She seemed to take a lot of pride in that. She was not tearful or upset; in that moment, she had a lot of pride in herself, in her relationship, in her life. And as I go through the day, preparing myself for the inevitable, I cling to that pride and imagine her clinging to that and to her unmistakable beauty in the next life.
My family and I would appreciate your kind thoughts today and the coming days as we navigate this tough period. Perhaps more importantly, I encourage you to reach out to a loved one today and enjoy the spring sun, the gentle breeze, the amazing love that makes a family strong and Tang taste like nectar.