I Live With Her in Mind

November 11, 2011
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Filled with embalming fluid where her blood should be, she just lay there in a wooden cage, cold, emotionless, and pale as a ghost. It was the best she had looked in months. With my face all wet and salty, I reassured myself, ‘She’s in a better place,’ but being eleven years old, I didn’t understand, and I couldn’t seem to grasp the concept of forever. A warm gentle hand was then placed on my shoulder. Instantly, my heart sank to the ground as I turned to see my grandpa restless and heartbroken. Loneliness blanketed his red bloodshot eyes. Then it hit me; my grandma is never coming back. She’s gone forever.

Growing up I spent more time with my grandma in her little two-story white house than I did in my own home. We watched Jeopardy and The Wheel of Fortune together while the aroma of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies filled the living room completely. “BIZZZZZZZZZZZZ” the timer went off. It sounded like a freight train two seconds away from crashing into the house. We both shot up. Opening the oven, we peered at those yummy, gooey, warm, brown cookies lying there, baking to perfection.

Almost all of my favorite memories were made at her house, and she seemed to make everything fun. Even when the newspaper came, she gave me scissors and a glue stick. I took the paper and cut out every little item that looked appealing to me. From clothing to food items, I cut away, and in a yellow-papered scrapbook titled “Stephanee,” we glued it all down. She always had a niche for scrapbooking.

Every person in my family attended Grandma’s holiday dinners. They were filled with laughter, smiles, gifts, the best food ever eaten, and her presence. Who wouldn’t want to experience all that? As soon as she yelled, “Dinner is done!” everyone jumped up and gathered around the small circular dining room table. Little did we know that dinning room table was soon to become a hospital bed.

Ever since she was younger, my grandma smoked. Unfortunately over time, that led to a serious illness. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005, and for everyone who has witnessed someone battle cancer, they know how much of a toll it takes on the victim. It took over her entire body. She began to look very drained, tired, weak, brittle, tiny, and that’s when I knew something was wrong. Sick smells of a hospital filled the room, and there, right in the center of the dining room was a big, ugly, white hospice bed. Snuggled in a thin, yellow blanket, she lay there with a frightening look that covered her face. I knew she didn’t want to be seen like that. With all her might, she tried to get up and hug me, but she just fell right back down. Weakness covered her entire body and made every little action she used to do just that much harder. With watering eyes, I smiled and said, “It’s okay, Grandma. I’ll come to you.” With that I went over towards her and reached for a hug. While wrapping my arms around her, a sharp chill rushed down my back. She was outrageously freezing and seemed much smaller than usual, and at that point, I felt helpless. It all made sense; my grandma was tremendously sick. From there, the countdown began, and I knew it was coming. ‘What would I do without her? Is this really happening now? Who will sit beside Grandpa in the other worn out 80s recliner? There’s no way this could be happening. It’s Grandma; she’s too strong for this. What about my graduation? My wedding day?’ I kept shaking my head to get the horrible thoughts out. I knew with whatever time she had left I had to spend as much of it with her as possible. She couldn’t eat much, and with what little she did eat, it never seemed to supply her with enough energy. Therefore, she seemed to be lying in that bed, eyes shut, and in a deep sleep for what seemed like all day, every day. However, I was determined.

While I was over there, I spent the entire time sitting beside her in the miniature wooden rocking chair smiling because I thought I was healing her. My mind was set on it. All I had to do was be with her, and she would magically be restored to health, right? Wrong. Months went by, and she became whiter, weaker, smaller, and more brittle. Suddenly, I noticed the vibe in the room shifted from hopeful to hopeless in just a matter of days, and before I knew it, it was Sunday, February 18, 2006. I was in the middle of celebrating my friend’s eleventh birthday when the phone rang. On the other end, my mother spoke. “Hello?”

“Stephanee, we were going over to see Grandma Marie if you wanted to come.” Two minutes later I decided to stay at the party since I was having so much fun.

About five o’clock that evening after I arrived back at home, the phone rang once again, but this time my aunt was on the opposite end of the line. All of a sudden, my mother went outside. Puzzled, I joined her. She brushed me to go inside, so I did. Ten minutes after that, I was in the house, brushing my hair. “Stephanee?” my mother said with a shake in her voice as if she had been crying. I walked out into the living room, and my sister was sitting on the couch with my father on the opposite end. My mother, however, was standing there with her arms wide open, and just as I had thought, tears were flooding her face. I ran to her as fast as I could just to feel her warm comforting arms around me. I cried more that day than I ever have in my entire life. I was certain that, that day was going down in record as the worst day ever. Then I realized, ‘She’s no longer in pain. She’s in a better place, and she’s always going to be there watching over me.’ Suddenly, I felt a rush of comfort, and it felt like she was there in that room with me, calming me down.

From that day forward, I have always looked at life with a positive aspect and attitude. That’s what my grandma would have wanted after all. I live with her in mind, and I know that if she were here, she would be proud. Yeah, there won’t be anymore Jeopardy watching, cookie baking, and holidays won’t exactly be the same, but I know one day soon enough we will be together again.

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