My grandmother recently passed away. Life was exhausting her and she was anxious to go. Now she is free and to those of us still here, there is some peace in knowing that.
Last week I flew to Connecticut to be with my father and brother and sort through her things. When we arrived at the nursing home where she spent the last six months of her life, her sheets still warm, we were directed down the hall to where all her stuff had been boxed and bagged. Ninety-two years and all that remained were two plastic bags of clothes, two small boxes and a few pictures that hung on the wall to remind her of how life once was. I claimed the blown-up photograph my grandfather took of the house they filled with love, family and lots of flowers.
The three of us just stood there looking down at this pile of my grandmother’s things that had been bagged and boxed and shoved in a hallway to await their fate. The staff had to “turn the room” because they had a “new admission” on the way. Other than a yellow sweater, we donated all of her clothes to the nursing home so that others might find use for them. Later that night we would sort through the boxes and pictures.
My brother and I had so much fun dusting off pictures from the early 1900s of my grandmother as a young girl. She was apparently quite an athlete, and underneath that proper smile and those fancy clothes was a wide-eyed, fearless girl—a warrior on the inside.
She kept immaculate records of birthdays and important events. She earmarked poems and bible verses that offered her strength during trying times. Now they offered us strength. My grandmother was wise. But so much of her wisdom we were only just discovering—an unfortunate reality of living so far away.
What I didn’t expect during my visit was to hear all the wonderful stories about her from those with whom she spent most of her days, some even to the very end. She was funny and kind but sharp and direct. So many people came up to tell me how proud she was of me and how I was such a light in her life. I didn’t know this, and it made me a little sad because I’ve been wrapped up in my own life and wasn’t as present as I should have, could have been.
So, there are regrets in life. I wish I had taken the time to ask her about her memories, her dreams, her ideas, her regrets, her loves, passions and hopes. Because when people leave this world, they take with them all of these things.