It’s odd when someone who has been a fixture in your life leaves. Although I had seen her only infrequently in the past few years, in my mind she was that stone figure, the thing that could never be moved. She will forever be in my head the person that told me “Santa accidentally left one of your presents here last night, but I figured that was ok because you were coming over for Christmas anyway.” The person who cooked wonderful pies, who put up with all of our arguing about whether pecan or pumpkin was better, and was always trying to find a compromise. In my memory, I saw her grow into a grandmother, and enjoy a more laid back role in retirement. She will always be that fierce Oklahoma fan, ready to throw down with anyone who thought otherwise.
I don’t want to remember her in her last days. Emaciated, barely able to move, uncomfortable in her own skin. For the first time, appearing frail to me. Emanating a sadness that sent out waves from her core – from the epicenter of her pain. If I had had xray vision, I could have seen inside her body; tumor littering and wasting her insides, strangling her organs and nerves, trying to squeeze out her life force.
And it did.
I don’t want to remember her remarking that the medical system was torturing her. I wanted her to stop fighting it, to think of herself and her own comfort. To acknowledge that this wasn’t going to get better. To think of her comfort and not keep trying to go for the cure.
I had a dream – the night I found out she died. She was alive again, sitting comfortably, knowing the end was coming, but embracing it. She had given up on the belly taps, the blood transfusions, the chemotherapy that gave her more side effects than relief. She was sitting in her chair, her Oklahoma blanket covering her skinny legs, serene and peaceful, satisfied with what life had brought her.
I guess my mind somehow had to work out how I needed to remember her. To need to know that her sadness had gone, that she could see the beauty in her death rather than just the bitterness and pain.
I know I need to now imagine her in a better place. Her body is free and weightless, all of her limbs work again, she is uninhibited. She can look down at her husband, her children and grandchildren, and smile because she now knows the secret. She can once again sit in her mother’s lap, a child again, receiving relief and comfort from what she had been through.
Those last words still echo in my head “Goodbye, I will love you always, see you soon.”