|Saying Goodbye true story
Author: silverquill212 PM
Something I wrote back in 2004 to remember the death of my beloved grandmother. Revised in February 2007.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Words: 1,798 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 02-15-07 - Status: Complete - id: 2320526
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I wrote this to remember how my grandmother died. She was a sweet, quiet person, the head of our family, and everybody's friend.
Grandma, I love you and miss you. Hope you enjoy the view from up there.
This is for you.
Rrrrring! Rrrrring! The uneasy peace of the evening was shattered. In those days, we cringed away from the ringing phones. Most of the calls were innocent enough, but there was always a chance that The Call would come. I pushed off from the computer desk with my legs, allowing the rolling chair to slide back towards the doorway. Was this The Call? Who was on the other end of the line? The ringing stopped abruptly; I peeked around the doorframe of the computer room and listened. A single muffled voice spoke downstairs. If Dad had been watching TV or Mom had been listening to music, I would never have been able to hear anything. As it was, I couldn't discern words, but I remember the tone to this day.
The smooth, murmuring baritone was flecked with hopeful optimism, but it didn't last. My father's voice became deathly solemn. Moments later I heard the sliding click of the cordless phone as it was returned to the dock, and it struck me that somehow the sound was different. I pictured what I had heard. Dad had been distracted in hanging up the phone; normally the sound was short and succinct—a neat gesture—but this time there was a rough scraping sound as the phone grabbled for its catch. Hushed voices spoke. I rose from the chair and sprang down the hallway. Mom and Dad appeared at the foot of the stairs. He was holding her hand.
"Get your coat on," Dad said, his face blank. "We're going to the hospital." I can't remember getting ready to go. I only vaguely remember putting my coat on, tying my shoes, and staring out the car window on the way to the hospital. I was in a daze. This isn't happening, I thought as my eyes filled with tears. When people go to the hospital, they get better. The doctors can cure whatever's wrong with them, and then they can go home. The more I tried to grasp the situation, reality seemed to slip through my fingers. Grandma Loftis, the Mama figure of our family gatherings, my best friend and piano teacher, the physically weak yet mentally strong woman of seventy-five years, was dying. And I was powerless.
Memory from our last visit to the hospital floated up, irrepressible. Grandma was in the Intensive Care Unit, and I was scared to go see her. While Dad stared down the hallway through a window in the door, Mom said it would be tough for me, but that nothing was certain and I should try to go with them. Grandma was the one suffering, not me. I couldn't take her pain upon myself, but the least I could do was see her. I steeled my nerves as my parents gazed down at me, waiting for my decision. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes for a moment, and pushed the double doors open. She was lying on a bed slanted down to the floor. Countless tubes and wires crisscrossed her body. Bulky machines, the only reasons she was still alive, beeped and whirred as they constantly updated their observations and altered their functions to suit her. The most horrifying machine, however, was responsible for her breathing. A tube, thrust down her throat to her lungs, forced air inside every few seconds. It was a monster hovering over my grandmother. Parasitic. Providing her breath, but slowly sucking the life out of her as she slept. I wanted to pick up my feet where they were cemented to the floor by the doorway, run to her side, and awaken her. Grandma, Grandma, wake up! Don't succumb to this monster, fight it! I covered my gaping mouth with a trembling hand and dashed back to the waiting room, alone. The tears hadn't stopped coming, even after we returned home and I was snuggled down in bed.
Here I was again, about to face the same sight. I tried to prepare myself, but as it turned out, I didn't need to. When we arrived on the second floor, most of our large family was already there. Aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives… So many bodies, standing straight like cattails in the summertime, swaying stiffly, with Grandpa in the center and his four kids clustered around him. We stayed in the waiting room until a nurse came to take us to Grandma. Everyone crowded in close.
"Mrs. Loftis only has a short time," the nurse said softly as she turned off several machines surrounding the bed. She moved them to the side to make room for us. She left only one machine running—the one that monitored Grandma's heartbeat. We made a path for the nurse as she left the room. Only then did someone gently push me up front with the other grandchildren and Grandpa for a better view. There she lay, in peaceful slumber, unaware of the closeness of her own mortality. Much to my surprise, no tubes or wires adorned her now. Even the thin oxygen tubes she usually wore were gone. I didn't understand why, but wasn't about to ask, wasn't about to disturb the reverent silence.
Her normally rosy face was pale as white marble, her tidy white hair slightly flattened, her eyes closed, her hands folded across her abdomen as though she were already dead. I stared, entranced, and cried with my family. The only sounds in the room were sniffles and sobs that echoed off the hard tile walls. We watched as the green line on the heart monitor jumped less and less, as the height of the neon zig-zags slowly diminished.
Even as I stood there watching, I took a mental step back. The scene was heartbreaking, yet somehow serene. Before then, I had only known death as portrayed by television—a violent, cruel end usually characterized by a murder or a terrible freak accident that leaves the victim's body mangled and bloody. Grandma's death was completely different. First of all, she was asleep. She could feel no pain. No outside force was causing her death, unless you counted the sicknesses that had swept her off her feet one after another. Her body was intact, though slightly smaller due to a loss of weight. Death isn't necessarily something to be afraid of, I thought. It can happen peacefully. Despite my grief, something inside me relaxed a little.
I didn't experience a series of flashbacks as I watched my grandmother die. Treasured memories didn't come bubbling up like they often do in the movies in a moment of profound crisis. In my mind was a picture of Grandma the way she used to look, her small eyes twinkling, her face lit up in a smile. I pictured the way she shuffled as she walked, slowly but with purpose, as though she was always tired. I heard her soft, breathy laugh that was weak with asthma, and smelled her sweet perfume. I felt her bushy silver curls, hovering around her head in a near-perfect sphere. It occurred to me that I would never hear her voice again, and found myself sobbing, not trying to hold it back.
I don't know how long we all stood there, but eventually the neon green line on the heart machine lay flat, its energy spent. It was too tired to jump any more. The nurse came back to turn off the monitor; she rolled it out with her as she left so that there was more room for us to stand. I didn't know what would happen next. The sobs increased as we continued to stand and look on helplessly. I looked around at the red, watery faces of my family. No one bothered to wipe the tears from their cheeks. Finally someone spoke. My memory is a little hazy at this point, but I believe it was my aunt Elizabeth.
"Do you want to say goodbye?" she asked softly, gesturing for me to move closer to the bed. I didn't even realize that I had backed away. Say goodbye? I thought. What does she mean? It wasn't a rhetorical question. Elizabeth was waiting for some kind of reply. I nodded to satisfy her, moved closer to Grandma, and gripped the metal frame of the bed with sweaty hands. My eyes widened at the look on her face. She was asleep, serene. It was too quiet in the room to speak out loud, and I didn't want to disturb the peace in saying farewell. For a moment I didn't know what to do. Then I simply bowed my head and prayed, prayed, prayed to God for strength, asked Him to take care of her in Heaven, and said my farewell.
"Goodbye," I whispered once my eyes were open again. I kissed her cheek. My family's faces were blurry when I turned to go. Warm hands reached out to grasp my shoulder as I passed. I stared down at the white tile, avoiding having to look anyone in the eye. As I left Grandmother behind, I heard my cousins muttering their own sad goodbyes.
To this day I remember being alone once more in the waiting room, sitting in a chair by the window and gazing outside at the beautiful spring day. Flowers were blooming under blue skies over a sea of green. Mother nature was giving birth. Even as people were dying, life went on. I sat there grieving, not fighting the tears. My knuckles were pale from clenching my fists for so long, but as I sniffled and sobbed and stared out that window, I slowly relaxed. I don't remember how long I sat there looking at the beds of tulips and daisies or how long it took for the tears to stop. I don't remember leaving the hospital or what happened when we got home. But I will never forget the expression on her face—not a look of pain or fear, but of subtle… content. Despite her paleness, Grandma was beautiful. She exuded calmness, lying there with the sheets pulled up neatly to her belly button, her hands folded across her lap, her chin tilted up as though she were holding her head high with pride, the corners of her mouth curled into a little Mona Lisa smile.