When my grandfather was killed by a tree in 2000, I wished I could've had one last chance to say goodbye to him. When my uncle died in a plane crash last year, I wished the same - not to prolong their lives on earth while in pain, but just to get a few extra breaths - a few extra moments - in order to tell them how special they were to me. For years, I've wondered what it would be like to get that chance to tell someone goodbye.
I had that chance this week. While at the hospital last night, I hugged her goodnight and told her how much I love her and how much she's meant to me. Today, I did the same thing while we stood around her hospital bed, waiting for her to pass. It only took two hours, which made me feel as though taking her off life support was the right decision. Her body was ready. We told her our last goodbyes, stood around her, and let her know that we were ready to let her go - she could leave us now and go on to a better place. Uncle Brian's already there to show her around.
It still hasn't completely hit me yet, I don't think. The person that I've been seeing in the hospital on a ventilator for the past 18 days wasn't really my great-grandmother. No, she was the woman who could belly-laugh like nobody else and kept chuckling for hours after a good joke. The woman who, when I got married, gave me the coffee table that she and my great-grandfather made together as newly weds and spent hours telling me all about how much fun they had while making the table. One of my favorite memories of her and Brian stems from her 83rd birthday. She opened up a racy card, complete with a couple of dollars enclosed, with a note about the cash being for the strippers. The card was signed by me. She slowly looked up at me, then back to the card, and back to me again, shocked that I would give her a card with a half-naked man on it. I couldn't believe it, either. Because I hadn't given it to her! Brian fessed up to it. lol
We called her Grandmother Howell because that's what my mom's generation called her. She was close enough in age to my grandmother (she was my grandmother's step-mother) and in personality and life that calling her "Great Grandmother" just didn't fit. The woman I knew came to Mother's Day brunch just a couple of months ago, and would tell me stories about her childhood and living in the midwest. THAT is my great-grandmother. She will forever live on in my memory, long after her body has passed from this earth.
I love you so much, Grandmother Howell. Thank you for being a part of my life.