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I have to control my breathing. My sides and upper body still hurt from throwing up last night. It was probably the mixture of alcohol and my irrepressible sobbing. I have no control over it. She lays there, my grandmother, and looks at me with those eyes. Those big, delicate eyes. So much wisdom in her eyes, so much warmth, it seems to be pouring out. My eyes, probably swollen and red, looked up cautiously, accidentally meeting her gaze for a moment before they jolt back down to the floor. My stomach turns. I might throw up again. Not from the Alcohol, but from the shame. Why am I so weak? This women, an 85 year old grandmother, with more cancers intruding upon her body then I can count on both my hands, holds more strength inside her heart than I could ever hope to muster in a lifetime. She continues to look at me, but I cannot meet her gaze. She reaches out and meekly touches my hand. It takes all of my courage to unglue my eyes from the floor and look at the connection. I could tell how beautiful her hands had once been. These hands had completed a lifetime of accomplishments. These hands had raised my mother, and nurtured my grandfather before his passing. Her hands had been a safe haven for me as a child, her tender touch lulling me to sleep when it seemed so unattainable. These were the hands of my guardian.
The silence was killing me. It was as if the entire world had stopped to watch us in our last few moments. As if life itself revolved around this woman who lay dying in a hospital bed. I wouldn’t dare break it, the silence. As tears form in my eyes a nurse walks in with a change for her I.V. I hold the tears back and try not to get in the way.
“What is in the I.V.?” I ask curiously, trying to lighten the mood.
“Just nutrients to keep her body going.” She answers
As the nurse left, I remembered she couldn’t eat on her own, so this was what was keeping her alive. The tears started filling my eyes again and I had to blink them away. I have to stay strong for her. Then, as if she read my mind, or seen the bold expression that had come across my face, she attempted to pull me closer. I sat on the bed and laid my head down next hers on the pillow. Her eyes were closed, and she spoke softly, just loud enough that I could hear. I could tell the effort it took her to speak throughout her body. Her breathing grew heavier; her eyes didn’t, or couldn’t open.
“Kailee” She said “I want…I want you to do something for me…”
The tears started to come back; I tried my best to keep them away.
“Kailee, I need you to let go…”
I couldn’t hold them back anymore, a single tear rolled down my cheek onto the pillow. She started once more:
“I have been through so much in this life…and all I…all I leave behind is the memory of me. Everything you will have of me…is what…what I have passed onto you through our relationship, and I just keep…hoping…my love…my love would make you a stronger woman.”
I couldn’t stop crying, I hung on every word she said, and I knew they might be her last.
“I…I love you…”
She was interrupted by a loud noise from one of the machines hooked up to her. I didn’t dare look away. Her hand had moved from my hand to my cheek. I watched her free her final breath and she died.