nine years ago today, i posted this bit of an advent meditation on my old blog. i was twenty-four, living in east belfast for a season, trying to find my voice. my grandmother had been dead three years at the time, and now? the whole thing still rings tremendously true. i hope you enjoy.
it’s been a long time since i’ve listened to the counting crows’ recovering the satellites.
“i guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower, makes you talk a little lower…”
it’s strange how months attach themselves to memories. wistful or malevolent.
like grandmother. like cancer.
“the smell of hospitals in winter.”
i remember. those last days were stark (county) and grandma on her back, in a bed. i’d never seen her that way before. i brought pizza and we chuckled about small things. i watched her chest move up and down, breathing.
“…hold on to these moments as they pass.”
the last time i went, we talked of nashville, while i held my sleeping baby nephew on my lap. she held my hand a lot. her eyes were tired, so she looked at the ceiling as she spoke. my nephew-holding arm was asleep, tingly. my grandma-held hand sweaty. i followed her gaze up to the drop ceiling tile of the bland room. i assured her that i would be alright in nashville. i had a job, a place to live. friends. emergency contacts, like 911 and poison control.
she looked at me suddenly.
“do you feel my hand?”
“it’s warm, isn’t it?”
“that’s because i’m alive. and you’re alive. so. dive in, honey, dive in.”
“i will, grandma. i promise.”
that semester, i had been taking a class on counseling (i was still studying to become a therapist then) and my professor had spent the most recent class teaching us how to say goodbye. he stressed the importance of saying goodbye effectively, not merely saying see ya later, when you know you won’t.
i was leaving for nashville in five days.
when it was time to go, i held my grandmother’s hand in both of mine, and looked her in the eye.
“i love you grandma,” i said. “goodbye.”
“goodbye honey” she replied, looking back at me. (was that a wink? grandma never winked…) “i love you too.”