Thursday, January 23, 2014

And Now We Say Good-Bye

We said good bye to my grandmother yesterday. She had a long battle with dementia. For those of you who have experienced this illness in your family, you know how hard it is to slowly say good bye to your loved one. Ever so slowly. Each time you see them a little bit more is gone. It is particularly painful to see the light in their eyes fade. Recognition and vitality dissipate until there is almost nothing there but a shell of a person. My grandmother's physical body was extremely healthy. But a wilted spirit will take it's toll on the physical. And finally at age 92 her body gave out and she is now at peace.

I imagine she is laughing with my grandfather again. They are reunited after almost 9 years. She has probably already made a couple dozen friends in her new world. Isabel was always a very social and chatty person. She could talk to anyone, and she always made you feel special. I envision her smiling again with that sparkle in her sky blue eyes. Forever she can be the woman we loved.

I miss her, but I have missed her for years.

She was such a wonderful Grandma. She and my grandfather lived in Arizona all of my childhood. It would have been nice to have them close by, but it was great having such a cool place to visit. My brother and I would go out for a few weeks at a time. Living out west is like being in an entirely new world compared to the north east. We drove through desert towns with huge cactus. We visited rodeos and rode horses. My grandfather had a candy drawer. Yup, an entire drawer. He loved butterscotch candies, chocolate covered raisins and Wherther's Original. We watched the lightning storms on their huge deck that overlooked the entire city. We ate popcorn and peanuts, throwing the shells over the rail of the deck. But mostly my memories consist of being in their home, making the guest room my own and feeling safe and loved.

That is what grandparents are for.

My grandmother never missed an occasion to send a card. Her cursive handwriting very familiar and easy to read. It is the same writing that labeled every gift she ever bought. She loved to catalogue items. Her memories were thick and plentiful. Her labels are a gift in themselves as we find things and realize when, where and who gave them to us.

We named our baby girl after my grandmother's mother. I was told that when my Grandma found out what we named her, she cried with happiness. She always wanted a baby in the family by that name. I was glad I could give that gift to her when so many things that once brought her joy were taken away. Yesterday the baby was in her high chair waiting to be fed, and I felt so grateful for the hope that she offers in this time of loss.  Her life is just beginning and my grandmother's has ended.

I am lucky to have had my grandmother this long. But I am also grateful that her suffering is over and that she died peacefully in her sleep. It is never easy to lose a loved one. It doesn't matter that I am 35 and she was 92. Her life is over and I miss her. I miss all of the things I can't ever get back, and it is hard.

Soon our family will gather together to reminisce and celebrate her life. The photographs have already started to circulate of family get-togethers and special times. I look forward to reliving these memories with the help of my family members. These are the images I will take with me when I am missing she and my grandpa.

May joy and peace surround you,
Contentment latch your door,
And happiness be with you now,
And bless you evermore.
-Irish Blessing


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