A week ago today I sat at my grandmother’s bedside, fully aware that these were the last minutes we would spend together.
A week of processing and mourning and thinking has led me to many places.
Sometimes death comes like a thief and a robber. There are lives lost too early or too painfully or too brutally.
But what I’ve learned this week is that sometimes death comes like a friend.
Sometimes death comes to an old, frail, broken body and gently whispers in her ear, “Come, Friend.”
No more hurting. No more pain. No more seeking and not finding. No more emptiness or anger or bitterness.
No more lonely nights and no more fear and no more shallow breaths.
To a life long lived and a body worn, death is no enemy.
I’ve learned that death is not to be feared and death is a part of life. It’s part of the dance that we all get one chance at – and as my dad taught me this week through the words of a song – death is your final dance and it is the one dance that you must dance alone.
The life and the joy and the pain and the fear and the laughter and the emptiness and the mountaintops and the valleys that pave the road to death are all stripped away in those final moments.
And as you lay there, Mimi, you were no longer all of the things that you had sought to become. You were just you. Lovely and beautiful and beloved. Because you were a soul created and a soul lived.
And the hardness of the years had worn you down, but in your final moments you were at your most beautiful. You became a child again. You were fully able to receive the love that we poured on you in your final moments with no objection.
And I sat there and watched as your sons loved you in a way that I had never seen before. Their hardness and their hurts stripped away, too. And they treasured those minutes and they kissed you and they sang to you and they covered you in love. The gently touched you and whispered words in your ear that probably had never been said because life is too ugly sometimes to say the words that our souls feel in the deepest places.
And my brother and I, your grandchildren, we sat there and we saw you a child again. And we loved you, Mimi. Not because of anything that you have given us or because of anything that you have done, but because you are you and you are beautiful. And you are worthy of love.
And your great-granddaughters mourned because they are old enough to understand the finality of it all, but too young to see that maybe it is a little bit beautiful too. And my child hurt in deep, deep places with no way to express because she really did love you, Mimi. And letting you go hurt her more than she thought it would.
And your great-grandsons laughed and ran and yelled because that’s what they do. And they love you too, Mimi, but they are too caught up in the living to worry about the dying.
And your tiniest great-granddaughter, well, she saw you there and she loved you, Mimi. And she didn’t understand it, but she knew that she loved you. And she kissed your tender head and told you that she loved you. And probably her love was the most pure because it’s all she knows. And she’s still looking for you and I hope that her soul remembers yours because I know that she was the treasure of your heart.
And the children sat there and we sat there and we cried and we laughed. And old friends came to see you and they tenderly touched you and told you all of the words they wanted you to hear. And you lay there and I believe you joyfully received it in its fullness, because in that moment you had nothing to give. And sometimes we all need to just sit still and listen and receive.
And the tender moment I had with my daddy, loving him and listening to a song and knowing that you were in the next room breathing your last moments. Knowing that there was no time frame and that there was no agenda and that we were just here and that time would open up and stand still for these few moments while we loved you and we loved each other.
Sometimes the hardest moments in life become the most holy and beautiful because everything is stripped down and we are all laid bare.
This death that we experienced, it was the most tender and peaceful of days. With children laughing and playing at your feet, and all of us just being there and whole and loving you with nothing else to do.
And I’m sorry that you hurt and I’m sorry that your body gave up and I’m sorry that you’re gone. I’m sorry for the pain and the lonely years and the tearful nights.
I’m so glad you were my grandmother. I’m so glad to have been able to see you on your last day here. To see it all stripped away and the soul inside opened up for all of us to love.
And someday my parents will become the child and I will become the parent. And I pray that our last moments are as tender as these were – that I care for them in the loving, compassionate and graceful way that your sons and my mother did in your last moments.
May my life honor you and the life that you lived, and the life that you hoped to live.
And as you said to me just a few days ago, I’m so glad God chose to plant us in the same patch. Your seeds have been scattered. I am still blooming.
Thank you for the years.