Vitality and Mortality

This week started off rough and took a nosedive from there.

My sweet Granny, the one whose house I now live in and whose worldly possessions are now scattered, dusty, around me with price tags as I sit in her dark garage awaiting the customers who won’t come on this rainy Saturday morning, died on Wednesday afternoon.

I knew this was coming. She has been sick for so long and I have already said goodbye so many times.

Four days before Christmas I spent the day at her side in the ICU, enormously pregnant and watching her try to flip invisible coins and search her covers for clothespins that weren’t there, hallucinating because her heart was failing and not pumping enough oxygen to her brain.

A few weeks ago she was in the hospital again, with an infection. She lay in her hospital bed as small and fragile as a baby, waking up briefly to be fed an ice chip and to tell me the field was on fire. Her fingers and nose were purple. I kissed her on the forehead as I left, thought it again might be time.

She came back to the nursing home. The last time I saw her, she was upright in her wheelchair, sitting next to my grandfather, both of them lucid, both of them smiling as The Baby cooed and laughed stomped from my lap.

The Baby’s energy always seemed to revitalize them. I felt lucky to see them both awake and talking, a rare occurrence since they were both assigned hospice care. I remember saying, “See you soon,” my usual optimistic attempt at a casual goodbye, but I felt confident I meant it that time. They seemed well.

But it was the last time I saw her.

Her death and the parallel clearing out of her possessions bitterly punctuate the impermanence of things that seem steadfast. She was always there for me.  Until she wasn’t.

We couldn’t cancel the garage sale, and the busyness of the week kept me from having to spend too much time feeling this loss. But in the quiet minutes between greeting customers and tickling the baby, her absence is palpable.

The death of an old woman is the natural order, not a tragedy. As hard as we try to forget this fact, we will all die someday.

The best I can do to honor her memory is just to remember her. How she taught me to bake. How she led me by the hand through the fields that are now my backyard and named the trees and birds and flowers: Jack-in-the-pulpit, May apple, chickadee. How she’d rock me to sleep on the wooden porch swing while the tree frogs chirped.

I got out the porch swing yesterday and hung it back up. Rocked The Baby to sleep.

A sweetness sidled up next to the deep ache in my heart. She is mostly gone, but not completely.

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Granny's handkerchief collection
Vitality and Mortality

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