This journey that I started this month to write 500 words a day has been amazing so far. It has made me get back into the habit of daily writing. I find it’s something I have missed and something that’s good for the soul.

One of our writing prompts for this week was to write about an important day in our life, a day we will never forget. I’m choosing to write about March 3, 2012. It’s hard to believe that day has been almost two years ago. It is the day I said my final goodbye to my grandmother, my best friend, my person.

To give you some background, my mother divorced when I was 6 weeks old, and my grandmother was my caretaker while Mom worked. The bond that normally develops between a mother and her child actually is one that happened between Gram and I. That was, as it turned out, both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because she was an awesome woman who taught me so much; a curse because it was an ongoing thorn for my mother that created many relationship challenges through the years. If you watch the television show Grey’s Anatomy, you are familiar with the phrase “my person.” It’s used to describe that person in your life who is always there for you, the first person you think of when something happens to you, the person who always believes in you. Gram was my person.

On March 1, I wrote a post on the site I was most active on at the time titled How Do You Say Goodbye which spoke to what was happening with Gram being admitted to the hospital in acute respiratory distress. As her appointed powers of attorney, it was up to my brother and I to make the decision to discontinue life support. That was, to date, the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. She was so ready to go, she hated the tubes and all the poking and prodding, and she was alert enough to understand that she would die if we removed things. She had often said to me “I don’t know why God keeps me here. I’m tired, I miss your grandfather, and I’m ready to go.” In my heart, I believed God kept her here for me. I still needed her. Selfish? Of course, but it was where I was at. I wasn’t ready to let go. And then we came to this.

After the life support was removed, I remember standing by her bed, tears rolling down my face, and she reached up and wiped them away. I assured her I would be all right, and she said simply “I know you will.” And then we waited. That wait wasn’t without some fun moments and joy, as she sat and talked with each of us, licked suckers with her great grandsons, and had her final party with the family. By evening, though much less responsive, she was still alive and they moved her to a regular room. The next day, she still hung on. Her doctor said he sure couldn’t figure it out and didn’t know how she was still here. All of the family had said their goodbyes. My brother had told her it was okay to go, as had my aunt. They told me I needed to say those words to her, and I responded with “She knows.” I suppose a small part of me just had a flicker of hope that she might pull out, even thought intellectually I knew it wasn’t medically possible.

The morning of March 3, I came to sit with her. Her breathing was more labored and she was no longer responsive. Everyone had taken a break and it was just me and Gram, like it had been so many times in our lives. She kept reaching for something toward the ceiling and was trying to sit up in her bed. I said “Where do you think you’re going?” And then I knew. And I knew, just as I had needed things from her during my life, she now needed something from me. I said, “I think I know where you’re trying to go. And I think when you get there, Granddad, Mom, David (my cousin who had died years ago), and all of your brothers and sisters are going to have one heck of a party for you. And you know what? It’s okay. I will be fine. I will miss you, but I will be fine.” Those words relaxed her and she wasn’t restless anymore. I somehow knew she had heard me. My brother and I had to leave for a bit, and another family member came to sit with her. We had just arrived on the errand we were running when my aunt called to tell me Gram was gone. They offered to keep her at the hospital until I could return, I declined. You see, this was just my grandmother. She waited until she knew I was too far away to rush back, and she knew me well enough to know that it would be more upsetting to me if I had been there. I also knew that my grandmother was no longer in that body and had no need to return to the hospital. And so the process of grieving began, or rather continued.

Throughout my life, I learned so many things from my grandmother. There were, of course, the normal day-to-day life things like how to make the best pumpkin pie in the world, how you had to scrub cucumbers like crazy before you could make them into dill pickles, and how to find the best sales in town. Then there were the intangible lessons I learned. The ones about unconditional love. The ones that I hope I continue as a legacy to her. She loved unconditionally. Even when my first husband and I divorced, she still sent him recipes she knew he would enjoy. She didn’t tend to hold grudges in her life, she simply forgave, loved and moved on. From her, I learned the power of encouragement and how it can impact the lives of children, something I have diligently tried to pay forward to others. I learned the value of laughter. I also learned how faith can carry you through even your last moments in life. She left us to go on to better things with God. I know she’s having a ball now, with my grandfather and all of her family who had gone before her. I imagine she even seeks out some of my friends’ moms to have a cup of tea and talk about us because she always adopted all of my friends as her grandchildren.

As for me, on that most important day that I will never forget, I learned about dignity in dying. I learned that incredible love can cause us to hang on to life even when we want to go, and that same incredible love can allow us to let go, even when we don’t want to. I am blessed daily with remembrances of the things she taught me and instilled in me. On those days when I just don’t want to do the things I know I should, sometimes like this writing challenge or finishing that book, I hear her saying “You can do anything you set your mind to.” In those moments, I am reminded of all she taught me and how incredibly blessed I am in life.

I look forward to that day that is talked about in Revelation 21:4 that says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” It is in that day that I know I will see her again and share all of the things we have missed together.

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