Death / Funerals

A Month of Grandmas

“I just want to let you know, because people wait too long to say what they should say, but if anything were to happen to me, I want you to know, that you are a really good mom.”

I was coming out of the bathroom at the Sunnyside Methodist church, and there she was, standing in her oversized brown cashmere coat. And I walked up to her and gave her one of my hugs that engulfed her much tinier frame. And hanging my arms around her neck, I said “I don’t want you to die, grandma.”

I didn’t remember saying it, until I was sitting at my parent’s kitchen table, in the late afternoon sunlight with my cousin Rachel. I hadn’t seen her since my wedding six years ago, and when she walked through the front door I turned to my other cousin and said, “wow, she looks just like her mom Lisa,” to which she replied, “I don’t know what Lisa looks like, it’s been so long.” And Rachel sat down, and started to say, “two days before she went in to the hospital, we talked on the phone for three hours, and she told me what you said, and how meaningful it was to her that she was crying. She loved you so very much.”

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My parent’s got the call from the agency stating they had a baby girl and did they want her (me). Of course the answer was yes, and in a flurry of preparations they picked me up when I was a mere three days old. And that weekend, when I was still so new to this world, my parents went to Whistler. It was a pre-planned business trip that they felt they couldn’t get out of, and so there I was, in my grandma’s arms, being held and loved on until they returned. It’s when I first loved her. My tiny helpless confused baby self, adrift in the world, away from the scents and sounds of my biological mom, in the arms of one who had birthed four babies over twelve years and knew how to hold me close.

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I got the text at 8:34 on MLK day. I had just set down the orange juice and snacks at my friends house for our day-off playdate. Mimosas and doughnuts on the schedule, and the kids had settled in to happily play upstairs. And I checked the phone, and then made the call, and was on my way within 5 minutes. I had to get there before the pass closed. I had to get there before the surgery.

With the clothes on my back, I hustled the kid into the car, and shot off a text that said: “tell grams I’m on my way.”

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Her last words to me will always linger. The first two days I was the only grandkid by her side, holding her hand for ten and then eleven hours, while my kid happily (or sometimes not so happily) played in the waiting room with my mom or dad. I was there for her, like she was there for me in my most vulnerable times. And in quiet moments, between nurses and visitors and family from even further out of town came through, I sang to her, and told her that I loved her, and I told her that she would be missed, but if this was her time to go, that we would all be okay.

And we will.

In time.

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