Please Don't Tell Me "She Lived a Long Time"
By sharongreenthal on March 07, 2012
My grandmother is ill. At nearly 98 years old, she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and is now, as she puts it, "ready to leave the fair." I understand how she must be feeling - between the fatigue, the fear, the sadness and the general decline of her health, she has just had enough of this life. My only wish for her is that she dies before the cancer becomes too debilitating, so she can avoid as much pain as possible.
Now, you may think, "well, she's lived a good long life," and fortunately you would be right. She's been greatly loved by many, many people, especially her late husband, 3 children, 6 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. But here's the thing - it doesn't matter how long she's lived, it doesn't matter how great her life has been. For me, her death will be a huge, inconceivable loss. Truth be told, my relationship with my grandmother has been the great love affair of my life. She is my earliest memory, my greatest champion, my strength, my heart, my touchstone. I was born when she was just forty-eight, her first grandchild. During a childhood of constant upheaval, of moving from home to home, changing schools, and ultimately moving across the country at the age of 15, my grandmother was always, without fail, there for me, with a steady hand and a loving touch, calming me in a way no one else ever has been able to do. She was the one who came to take care of me after both of my children were born, fussing and cooking and just being with me. Even now, even when I talked to her on the phone just a few hours ago, hearing her voice, raspy and shaky as it is, made me feel at peace.
How does one let go of someone who they've loved that much? What do I say to her when I go to visit her next week? How will I bear to leave her and get on a plane to fly home when my visit is over? I have no idea.
I've lost others in my life, including my father - but this, for me, is really the end of something. It's the bitter end of my childhood, which was made a million times better because of her. It's the end of our family's matriarch, the person who brought us all together, who we all adore. It's the end of her egg salad, her meatloaf, her baudy jokes and sweet voice singing showtunes. It's the last of her political tirades, a staunch democrat until the end. It's the end of an era, a generation, a past that we are still able to reach out and touch because she is here.
So please, when you hear me tell you that my 98 year old grandmother is dying, don't tell me to be glad for the time we've had together, for the extraordinary love we've shared. I am, believe me. But understand this - no matter how long she lived, it wouldn't be enough for me, because I love her, and I'm going to miss her terribly when she's gone. Some people leave a huge empty place when they leave, and my grandmother is one of them.
Sharon Greenthal emptyhousefullmind.com
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