I must start by saying that this weekend was fantastic. I spent time outdoors with family, bought books, ate homemade food, and just enjoyed life. It was a good weekend for healing.
My grandmother (maternal) passed away one year ago yesterday (May 24, 2014). I had been home for the weekend that weekend as well and I remember it clearly.
My grandmother had been struggling with health issues for about a year and a half at that point, when you’re 78, that’s not all that unusual. That Saturday night we’d gotten a phone call from my grandfather saying that he thought maybe Gram had had another stroke because she woke him up, but couldn’t get out of bed. It was late, probably close to 12:45 – 1 am. My mom had gotten me up and asked if I wanted to go to my grandparent’s house with her and I’d agreed. Thankfully. We got to the house and the ambulance had just gotten there. As they wheeled my grandmother past me I grabbed her hand and said, “Grammy, I’m here. I love you.” She mumbled a response I couldn’t comprehend and all I knew was that she’d acknowledged my presence.
We followed the ambulance to the hospital where they told us she’d had another stroke. She wasn’t able to respond; she couldn’t talk. Doctors informed us that essentially there wasn’t anything they could do but keep her comfortable which they did.
I spent the next 14 or 15 hours by her side until she passed later that evening. I talked to her even though she couldn’t respond. I repeatedly told her I was there and that I loved her – we all did. It is an odd feeling knowing that you’re awaiting the death of a loved one; this wasn’t the first time I’d had the honor of attending the death of a loved one, but I would have to say, this one has hit me the hardest. It has stuck in my memory most vividly.
I remember watching as she struggled to breathe and how distressed I’d become. They’d had a hard time convincing me that she was in no pain though I’m sure she wasn’t. I remember her passing and I remember thinking, now what? I’d spent hours with her preparing myself for the fact that soon she wouldn’t be with us, but now that she was no longer in this life, I was having difficulty figuring out what to do with myself. I couldn’t seem to get my brain to work. Deciding whether I needed to sleep or eat had become a monumental task.
The days that followed passed in a blur. I remember emailing work to request time off. I remember helping to pick out a box for Gram’s ashes. I remember laughter and tears, family and friends. I remember spreading her ashes and saying my goodbyes.
Fast forward to this weekend. Saturday night I woke up out of a dead sleep at 1:15 am. I tossed and turned for at least an hour before eventually falling back to sleep. And thought it didn’t occur to me at the time, I can’t help but wonder if my body wasn’t just going through the motions of memory. Whether coincidence or not, I choose to believe it was Gram’s way of letting me know she’s still with me.
Several times though out this year I have thought of her fondly. Those times creep up on me and often take me by surprise. Like when I picked up an adult coloring book and began using colored pencils and found mixed in among my pencils ones that had belonged to Gram. Or when I’d cleaned out the basement and found old photos from Gram and Pap’s 50th wedding anniversary. Or when I’d gone looking for a blanket to wrap myself in on the couch and found one my Gram had made me. These moments are the ways I prefer to remember Gram; not in the way that she died, but how she lived. The things she created. The love we shared.
So though we continue on, Gram is still in our hearts and on our minds. She lives on in me through my creativity and love of art. That is how I choose to remember.