On this date 28 years ago, I awoke and prepared for work. The day was much like this one...sunny and crisp.
I was living with my grandmother, as she had congestive heart failure and had suffered a stroke several months earlier.
Thursday had been an unusual one. Grandma wanted to make City Chicken and an apple pie. She called my cousin Kathy and my Mom to invite them for supper. She hadn't wanted to cook for months. The meal was delightful, and she enjoyed the company.
Friday morning I checked on her before getting in the shower. She seemed fine.
By the time I was done showering, she was congested, not breathing well at all. If you have been in the presence of someone with CHF, you know the distinctive sound that is made when the patient can't breath...like a frantic hiccup...gurgling...a sound I can still hear. I started for the phone to call 9-1-1. She shook her head and motioned for me to come to her side.
I called my aunt who lived across the street. She called for the ambulance, then came to be with us.
For the next few minutes we held her hands, watching her slip from this world to the next.
I was nearly 25, and she had been one of the most significant people in my life. I had lived with her for five months, knowing this would happen at some point, but not really accepting it.
What I had no way of knowing is that 28 years later I would still think of her daily, still hear her voice, still seek her help, still miss her every time I watched the Pirates.
"The Surge" - that's what medical professionals call a day like we had on Thursday. In hindsight, it made sense. October 10 is my grandfather's birthday. In 1984, he had been gone for 31 years, and I'm sure Grandma missed him terribly. I will always believe that as Wednesday Oct 10 passed, she willed herself to have one more good day. On Thursday she cooked, baked, saw several members of her family. And on Friday, she gave up. She was ready to be done with sickness, ready to be with her beloved Joe, just ready.
Grandma despised the condition of her body after the stroke. Unable to walk well, little use of her right/dominant side, spending much of her time attached to an oxygen tank. She wasn't silent about her unhappiness. At the age of 24, I sometimes took that personally, felt she didn't appreciate my help. Now I understand that it must be difficult to depend on a person whose diapers you once changed.
I didn't take advantage of that time to ask her questions about her life, questions about Grandpa, questions only she could answer. I didn't sit with her as much as I could have.
But there was a lot of sweetness. Listening to her visit with friends. Turning to see her smiling as she listened to me sing old hymns while I cleaned or cooked. Saying, "I love you, Gram" before I went upstairs to bed and hearing her say, "I love you, too, Honey."
Hard to believe it has been 28 years. Seems like a minute...and a lifetime.
It's like that when we miss someone, isn't it?
I think about the depth of my grief at that time. I think about how my perspective has changed.
Death no longer frightens me.
You might read that and think death doesn't faze me, doesn't alter me. Of course it does. I don't want people I love to die. Passing of loved ones rips at my heart, but it doesn't shake my foundation.
Death is not the end that I thought it was in 1984. Do I wish I could sit down to a meal with Grandma, Patty-Jo, Christopher, and other loved ones who have passed? Yes, of course. Would give anything for that chance.
They aren't here to touch, but they aren't gone either.
And what I know for sure is that as we stood at Grandma's bedside watching her go, my grandfather was on the other side waiting with glee.
As we stood at the funeral home, as we wept at the graveside, she was at the banquet table of God, celebrating as she never had before.
In the past three years, as I have traveled through a dark abyss, I have often felt my grandmother very near. I have heard her voice telling me to take another step. I hear her saying everything will be fine.
I know all this will pass...this valley, this difficulty, indeed this life. I know I will see her again. I do know.
Until then, I will continue to miss her.
And each night I will say, "Goodnight, Gram" and I will hear, "I love you too, honey."
We will talk again tomorrow.