Nan, my maternal grandmother, passed on a couple of weeks ago. She had Alzheimers for years, and the last 6 or so have been increasingly difficult as the disease slowly stole her away from us. My dad had heard her utter the last words she would initiate on her own 6 months ago, and even these were reading speed limit signs on a road trip to see family. I had mourned her a great deal before her death, through the years as I both saw her at visits and during conversations with my mom about her decline. The day she passed and over the weekend were also hard, as I mourned the woman who was a mere shell of a vibrant, welcoming host with an easy, tittering laugh. I realized I was also mourning the chance to mourn; the disease likewise quietly and insidiously took her away so slowly that it stunted an opportunity for remembering and honoring her as she was. As I looked at her for the last time, there was a quiet rejoicing at the deep peace for Nan, who joined Pap, my grandfather, in rest.
Saying goodbye on Thurs. morning at the funeral may have been the hardest. After everyone else had their last opportunity to say goodbye at the viewing, I was the last to release Nan from our family, next to my brother and his little boy. The four of us looked on, my brother quietly weeping. I was holding Owen, our oldest, who looked on unaware of who this woman was. He was quiet and curious, his gaze intent on her.
He asked me (as is his habit lately): Who's that?
Me: That's Nan. That's dada's grandma.
O: I wanna see her.
Me: There she is. She's sleeping. She's gonna be asleep for a long time.
O: I wanna touch her.
Me: That would be good, wouldn't it? I know you do, but we'll wake her.
Me: Can you say 'Love you Nan?'
O: Love you Nan.
Me: [I start weeping] Can you say 'I'll miss you Nan?'
O: Miss you Nan.
Me: Can you tell her 'bye-bye'?
We stood for a moment longer, just being present with Nan, something I hadn't been able to do in over 6 years, and the only opportunity for Owen.
That was hard. Still is; I'm crying now. Something about holding Owen in his innocent wonder and curiosity, wanting to spend time with Nan who was sleeping, was powerful and touched something deep. Perhaps I was saying goodbye through Owen, somehow unaware in the moment that I never really had the chance. Perhaps I'll know, perhaps not. I'm learning to grieve; to not over-analyze, and to rest with who I am in the moment. Damn, its hard to do that. Perhaps its the gift of death from those who proceed us to learn to live more in wholly.
Even since then, while both in Hershey and a few days after our return he said "I wanna see Nan" or "Can I play with Nan?" Our little one seems to love people, even when he hasn't yet met them.
Nan, you were loved by the great-grandchildren you were never given the opportunity to know even in life. Rest in Peace; you waited too long for this opportunity that was taken from you. Sleep deep...