Dearest Readers Who Know the Beauty of Loss,
A few weeks ago I had a dream that my grandmother transformed into a dragon and was flying through the sky giggling and without a care in the world – free from pain or any worldly concerns. I awoke smiling deeply yet with the sense of loss heavy in my chest. That morning I sat by my phone and waited for the call that she had died. It didn’t come until just recently – synchronistically the day before my birthday – and I realized just how well my grandmother knows me. She visited my sister in a dream too, the very night before she passed. It was like she was doing the rounds and she knew that I needed a bit more time.
Time to process, to ready myself. For that I am eternally grateful. I clearly needed it and by the time I got the call, I was ready.
My grandmother knowing me so well makes me feel special. She’s always been the one in my family who would grab my hand when no one else was around and look into my eyes with a sparkle in hers, telling me what a special bond we have. When dementia began setting in and her memory was no longer its best, at the mere mention of my name she would say, “My special one. Do you know she’s my goddaughter too?” Reminding my mother (who selected her for this role) or anyone else who was within earshot.
Our connection was immediate. There’s a baby photo of me at my baptism and all you can see is my grandmother’s puffy white halo of hair from behind, her lifting me into the air, and me beaming down at her with unbridled joy. Despite not being able to see her face in the photo, I’ve always known that look of pure love mirrored in my expression originated first in hers.
I’ve been losing her very slowly. A beautiful yet excruciating process of being gifted such a full life, sometimes it takes a long time to die. In her later years, our roles reversed and it was me who had to lift her up, whose expression comforted her and whose eyes drew out the smile in hers.
When I was a child, she saw me in a way no one else ever did. Imparting her wisdom, an old-fashioned vocabulary, and unwaveringly unconditional love, she played a huge role in the person I later became. I credit her with many of my most positive attributes and not a one of the less-than-desirable ones. (Well, except perhaps my stubbornness and precociousness. But the jury’s still out on whether those fall into the former or latter category.) She was one of my most special people. Now she’s my most special angel. Knowing that makes it easier. But not any less hard.
Five years ago when I saw her slipping away more and more, I wanted to pay tribute to both the beauty and the pain of that stage of life and what her life meant to me. So I wrote this:
My hands are my grandmother’s hands. Mine still strong and smooth as in her youth, both of ours soft and loving, hers creased with wisdom. Skin like petals, delicate and vulnerable. Perhaps it’s because she’s been loved so thoroughly, over great spans of time – not just in sporadic, intense spates but in the everyday enduring way when one is loved so thoroughly, so truly that is almost hurts. And sometimes it does. Because, like the Velveteen rabbit was sagely told, “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” The sweet of this love is so tender and warm that one doesn’t necessarily give pause to the bitter – an uninvited guest who takes her by the arm now and again.
She’s on her side, facing the door, her two great-grandchildren – she fears them today. Sensing me behind her, she reaches her quaking hand back in search of mine. This touch intimate and trusting. As easy connection. Her light eyes then search out comfort in the dark of mine. Recognition of the deep pools of sorrow, the trepidation where she once waded. Now struggling to keep her self afloat. I see it all. I give her hand a quick squeeze, the haptic reassurance she needs; place our hands on her heart, a touch that feeds us both.
Autumn is happening all around us in. Fiery colors taking over the trees, the winds shifting, my favorite time of year. A beautiful time for transformation. I whisper wishes into those winds. Use this time to search out what makes your soul take flight, embrace the uncertainty and take the risk to fly.
In love, gratitude, and all things woo,