The first time I walked away from Carter with tears in my eyes, even though my absence would only be for four days.
The first time I held a boarding pass with San Diego as its destination, and didn't feel the giddy excitement of returning 'home.'
The first time I had to brace myself for a Final Goodbye.
My Grandma is in hospice, as of this past month. Her dementia has accelerated to the point of Alzheimer's; she has no appetite and is losing precious pounds from her already petite frame. We're told she's not uncomfortable.
Neal lost a former student to leukemia three weeks ago. I lost a loved one to AIDS while he had much life left to live. Grandma's decline, her slipping away from us, does not feel unfair like these other deaths.
She's still happy.
She says "that's wonderful" every other minute.
But she's leaving us...
Time has etched its mark in the deep creases of her face, in the transparency of her skin. Her eyes still burn blue, but their weariness permits them little light. Her wiry, coarse hair is as thick as ever, unkempt and glorious with silver declarations of age.
She awoke for us and did her best to recognize her "beautiful visitors."
Her grasp was tight and she pulled me into herself, to press her cheek against mine.
Like an infant, she mimicked the motion of a kiss, more precious than my own son's first attempts.
She was humble. Grateful. Beautiful.
All I wanted to do was crawl into bed with her, and lie down.
I didn't know how I'd do it. How I'd quietly leave her side, as if this were some average visit. As if weren't about to board a plane the next day, pass two more months in Florida, have a beautiful baby boy, and wait to hear from family if her last day had come.
I didn't know how to say goodbye.
But she did. In her naive graciousness, she whispered my release.
Could we be getting along now?
She was tired. She is tired. A long life, well lived, will do that to the best of us.
When death and its finality edges closer to our present, when thoughts of forever overtake temporary concerns, we're reduced to the humble state of human once again. There's something inherently wrong about this set-up. We feel it in these moments.
Somehow, with her character of grace and her humility of spirit, my grandma seems to transcend the evil of death.
It could be the naivete her disease grants her.
It could be her unshaken faith in Jesus.
It could be a combination of both, for which I'm desperately grateful.
I didn't know how to say goodbye. Just like I don't know how to end this post.
Maybe I won't this time...