Where to begin. We lost my Nana at 11:58PM on St. Patrick’s Day; my dad’s birthday, her dad’s birthday, and one of our family’s most appreciated holidays. We toasted with Chivas and an Irish blessing and recounted old stories and even some long suppressed confessions that had us reeling and telling each other, “Shh, people are sleeping,” through hysteric laughter (without any enforced change in volume at all).
Collected from her final party once it started to die down, its attendees gone home for a night’s rest to prepare for another day of uncertainty, she left us wrapped in the warmth of her family’s love, snapshots of her incredible life flashing before her – the memories jogged by recounted stories as best could be remembered and shared by her children, children in law, and granddaughters. She held hands with her youngest son and my younger cousin on all of our behalf before going off to hitch a ride home with her sister, her neighbor, and her father. That’s how I choose to think of it, anyway, the idea presented by my aunt and cousin… and I thought I didn’t even believe in that sort of thing anymore. I’ll make the exception for this.
We spent her final day surrounding her in her small, yellow room in suburban Pennsylvania, seated on assorted chairs and stools borrowed from the facility’s communal areas. We were watched over with care by images frozen in the blissful timeline of our own happy family memories captured and command stripped or taped to the walls. We rotated frequently and each held her hands. Some flew from the west, racing against an unknown deadline with all their might, and some said goodbye through others and through phone calls and videos. We all made it in time in that she knew we were each thinking of her. Of that I am absolutely certain.
We told her we loved her so much and that we knew she loved us too even though she couldn’t say it with words. So powerful was our matriarch, even in her final days that she drew us to her like moths to her sheltered flame. Wordless, her energy’s container frail, our need to be near her was so strong. We let her know she made us who we were- members of a family, a close knit tribe unlike any I’ve ever heard of – despite living on split coasts and across different states.
The grief comes in salty Atlantic waves with foamy Pacific crests and words get crumpled up like moist Kleenex sometimes. Tomorrow will be easier and each tomorrow after.
There is a season.
Turn, turn, turn.