You know those dates that, for whatever reason, just seem to stick in your head, giving you pause for even just a second during the day? On June 6 each year, I always think about graduating from high school. On May 15, I always think about graduating from college. They’re like personal anniversaries. For the past four years, every February 7th, I have thought about my grandmother.
My dad’s mother (whom I think of every August 13th) died just before eighth grade started for me, and while I missed her a lot (I still often wonder about her and wish that I would have been able to ask her questions I have now) and struggled through my first real experience with death, I still had another ten years to spend with my mother’s mother, and I was understandably closer to her. She drove me up a wall sometimes, but she was still one of the most open-minded people I knew.
We had known she was sick and on Super Bowl weekend she had taken a turn for the worst. Being four hours away, there wasn’t much I could do except worry and wait. The Monday after the Super Bowl, I went to school, but I wasn’t being a very effective teacher. My head was in another state with my family and I was very short with my students. During the second block, I was in the library when the librarian said I had a call. My dad came on and told me that my grandmother didn’t have very long. She was asking for me. I left my class in the library and ran across the hall to the office where the secretary said “I know. I’ll take care of it. Get yourself home.” I told one of my friends where I was going, logged off of my computer, and went home to pack. I kept asking myself how to pack for a funeral for someone who hasn’t died yet. Yet.
When I finally got to the hospital, I found my family in the waiting area off of my grandmother’s room in the palliative care ward. I went in and went to my Gram. “Come here,” she said. I tried to give her a hug, and she gave me a kiss. We talked for a short while, and about a half hour later, she slipped into a coma from which she never emerged. She died about 36 hours later, on February the 7th. A few of us were in the room. I was holding her hand.
She always said she wanted to die surrounded by laughter. As it turns out, we were all laughing at my great uncle when I looked down and noticed that she was making a weird face. Something about her tongue. Someone said “I think she’s going.” We prayed, and then she went. The human spirit boggles my mind. She waited until we were laughing. She died around 11:15 p.m. It is 11:10 as I type this, and I feel anxious. 11:11.
For some reason, I feel the need to sort of relive these events in my head. Perhaps not the healthiest thing to do, but it’s how I remember her. I’ve always preferred to think of her as an angel, and I am sure that she is. In addition to a few other things that I have suspected she’s had her hand in, there is one big one, and while I don’t want to disclose too much information here, it involves one of my grandfather’s favorite past times and its recent relation to Santa. My Gram collected Santas like it was her job. The outcome gave my grandfather a lot of breathing room. While it’s been a source of mostly anxiety for me, it’s a good thing for him, and I know that she did it. In fact, about a month ago when my family was getting ready to go leave to meet with some people regarding this lucky incident, my mom was in her bedroom getting changed. She heard a click that sounded like the turn-switch on the lamp next to her bed. She turned around and the light was on, but no one was there. I was on my way to visit friends for New Year’s and didn’t see it, but my mom believes it was my Gram.
The thing is that a lot of things have changed drastically since she died, and I often wonder what she’d have to say about those things. I also know that some of them would never have been possible. It’s a really difficult feeling to articulate, but there you have it.
11:18. Her time of death has officially passed, and while I’ll continue to think about it for the next few days, the anxiety will wane. Somewhere she’s watching me. She’s probably also trying to tell me to stop spending so much damn money at Barnes and Noble and to use up the credits that she allegedly put in my name in 1997 that may or may not still be on record at the used bookstore. Also, I’m sure she has, by now, met every single person you have ever known who has died, and she’s talked to all of them.
I don’t really have some great thought here, but I’m a person who thinks a lot. I like to think. As I’ve been working a lot of things out and mulling over a lot of questions that don’t have clearly defined answers, it comforts me to know that this is one question that I feel has been answered for me. I know that angels exist. They bring blessings (sometimes in disguise), yes, but sometimes they also bring a challenge. I’m always trying to figure out what I can learn from the challenges.
And on a final (and mostly unrelated) note – congratulations to the Saints on their Super Bowl win! Although, I was pretty sure they’d win on an angel day, anyway.