ode to Jane
In my first post, Snowflakes to Seashells, I talked about planning. I had graduated college, left the nest, and finally realized that adulthood was full of unanticipated paths and uncharacteristic choices. I found that being in the present is the most rewarding part of the journey. I said “there is no plan,” and that “there shouldn’t be.” Well, it is in our nature, or at least mine, to plan. It gives me a sense of control over the uncontrollable. And I’ve reached yet another conclusion: our plans are only a piece of our complex collaboration with Life.
I told my boyfriend, “Let’s plan to spend Valentine’s Day in Boston.” I wanted to see all of my favorite places, taste the foods I’d been craving, see the faces of long-lost friends and family, and visit my grandmother Evelyn Jane.
Often there’s a feeling that precedes a visit to the hospital or a death. With my Grammy, it was this looming vision that I might have to say goodbye to her soon. Always a fighter, she would feel ill, and then with unimaginable resilience, she would pull through. This happened so many times, we thought her invincible. And she was. The difference this time was that she was ready to be reunited with her loving husband in the afterlife.
Just two weeks before Joey and I were scheduled to board a plane to reunite cheerfully with my family and friends, my Grammy passed on. She held on for a whole week, surrounded by her seven sons, loving grandchildren and daughter-in-laws. I didn’t make it to tell her how much I loved her, so I trusted that she knew I didn’t want her to go, but that I was happy she would find peace.
Of all the ways I expected to find my way back to my roots, to my home, this was the one I dreaded. I hoped I would make it in time, find her sitting in her chair smiling, her cheeks plump and pink, but Life and Death had a different plan. I knelt beside her, her favorite outfit on, her hair placed perfectly to frame her face, the same nail polish on her fingers you’d find her wearing in so many photographs, and her rosary wrapped around her hands. It was there I said goodbye, told her I missed her already, that I hoped her and Papa were watching in joy as their legacy joined together in mourning to send off the most selfless and strong matriarch the world has ever seen.
I wanted to be hugging her and saying, ‘hello, I love you.” Instead, I was hugging my family members who I hadn’t seen for months, some for over a year, and saying my hello to them, cherishing their breathing, thankful that Grammy’s passing brought a new perspective and passion for family that we were all needing. I had the most wonderful week with my family: a family that was able to smile, laugh, sob, and enjoy each other, reminded of our fragility, even in profound sadness.
I hope to not lose this overwhelming sense of being present, grateful for each and every moment I have with the people I love. The week I planned was rearranged by forces stronger than myself, and in return I was given two weeks of reunions, nostalgia and clarity. Because, despite the loss of someone so dear to us, we remain. That is a gift worth celebrating.