My grandfather died last night.
He had been in a lot of pain, and just had surgery the week before. He hadn’t been able to eat in weeks. His passing gives him ease from all that.
One thing that always happens when someone I know and love is dying is that I am desperate to talk to them, as if they could take a message from this world to the next and pass it on to my babies.
My grandmother was the first to die after we lost Casey. She had just celebrated her 80th birthday. She saw much of her family and had a happy day. She still got around all right and was as mentally alert as always. In the night she had an aneurysm and when they got her to the hospital they placed her on life support until all the family could gather.
I entered the darkened hushed room, the silence broken only by the occasional wheeze of the ventilator. Memaw’s chest rose and fell rhythmically with the machine. She was thin and fragile beneath the sheet.
I held her chilly hand, her grasp so limp. I had something critical to say to her, even though I was aware that she most likely had no hearing, no way to process the words. The doctors had told us she had no brain activity any more.
She would be the first to meet my baby; the first one to have known me in real life, with real hugs, to be able to embrace him too. I said to her, “Kiss him for me Memaw. Hug our baby Casey, you lucky great-grandma, you.”
Despite her medical state, despite what we all knew about her condition, God or fate or whatever mechanism controls this world of ours let her muscle contract and her hand squeeze mine. I was glad, so glad, for a confirmation that she heard and understood.
Tomorrow I assume I will leave town, depending on the time for the funeral. Yesterday was a hard day, as many of you know, on the miscarriage boards. Women upset at each other, causing all sorts of distress. I had to intervene at a level I had not done in many years. I wasn’t even sure what to think. What do we have in this world if we don’t have each other? A lot of death and dying and grief.
I wish before my grandfather died I could have told him to pick up little Casey–well, gosh, I guess he’d be 8 by now and embarrassed by that–so maybe pat him on the shoulder, ruffle his hair. But because of all the good things in this world–love, support, care, empathy, understanding–I’m sure my grandfather already knows.