Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Letting Go. . .or not

Last night, I was driving home from school, when the song my brother wrote for my grandma just after she passed came on.  I may have gotten a little blubbery.  The 9th anniversary of her death just went by.

I was living in San Luis Obispo when Grandma died.  She'd been in and out of the hospital frequently for weeks (and, less frequently, for months before that).  The last time I'd seen her--about three months previous--it was already apparent that her body was beginning to give up.  I was in very frequent contact with my mom, usually talking to her about twice a week, to keep tabs on Grandma's condition. I got the feeling that Mom was having a hard time telling me just how bad it was, so finally one night, I just asked point-blank if I needed to come home.  Mom said she thought that was best, and when I asked when, she replied, "Tomorrow."

It took a little longer than that, but about 36 hours after that phone call, I walked into my Grandma's hospital room back in Montana.  She was beyond being able to talk or interact much, but when she heard my name, she raised her head a little and her face brightened.  She said my name and when I reached for her hand, she squeezed mine in return.  She knew I'd come home to see her--that was what I needed to know.  I spent a lot of time in her hospital room for the next 3 days, and then (how could it seem sudden, when she was 88 years old and had been in the hospital for weeks?) she was gone.

The timing of her death in my life was hard for me to accept.  I was 20, I had just had my first baby a few months earlier, was trying to put my husband through grad school, and the thought of it all was sometimes a bit overwhelming and intimidating.  Sometimes I felt like I was a child just pretending to be an adult.  And as I watched my Grandma slip away from this world, it sometimes felt like God was saying, "Yep, you're an adult.  I'm gonna prove it by taking your childhood away."  So much of my childhood, so much of who I was, was wrapped up in my Grandma, that it did feel like I was not only losing her, but losing a huge chunk of my life--of my self.

Losing her made me more grateful than ever to believe in the Gospel, in the plan of salvation, in eternal families.  A few nights after she died, she visited me in my dreams.  She sat down and had a conversation with me, and answered some questions that had plagued me, gave me some assurances I needed, and then told me she needed to get back to work.  I've no doubt that she really was there with me, speaking to me.  It reassured me that separation was only temporary, that in truth I had lost nothing, and I have felt her often since then.  It has made every other separation since that time easier to bear.

I've thought about that a lot the last couple of years:  several of my friends (friends my age) have lost one of their parents over the last couple of years, and my heart breaks for them.  I cringe a little inside every time I hear my mom refer to herself as old, or talk about retirement, or someone I know ends up in the hospital due to age-related illness and I realize that they're only a few years older than her.  I'm not even ready for my mom to be old, and they've had to let go of their parents.  The thought of saying good-bye--even temporarily--to either of my parents is an overwhelming one to me.  One friend who lost her mom was one of my best friends the entire time we were growing up, I spent hours and days in their home, and I find myself thinking about her and her mom nearly as often as I think of my mom.  It gives me a slighter better appreciation of what my mom must've gone through, losing her dad at 18.  It all just makes me heartsick to think about too long.

But then I remember how often I feel Grandma Lettie's presence, and I remind myself that the separation is merely temporary, and probably not as severe as it sometimes feels to us on this side of the veil.  I'm sure that Gaye is watching Max grow up and helping him along, I'm sure she's over Hayley's shoulder more often than anyone would guess.  I'm sure Cynthia's dad is still there, watching over his large and good family, comforting them, protecting them.  I'm sure Fei's mom is still there, guiding her, smiling over her daughter's achievements.

Letting go is much less difficult when we have reason to trust that it is not forever. I am continually thankful for that.

No comments: