Goodbye, Barbara Jean…Seeing Her through to the End.
It’s the permanence that’s getting to me. The knowing that now, the phone will never say her name on caller ID again. It’s knowing that soon, my phone won’t be ringing with things related to her, and my mailbox won’t be overflowing with her mail. It’s wondering what I’ll do with my visiting time… How the kids will react to her absence. If the lump in my throat is ever going to go away….
Except, that if I get really quiet…I swear I hear her calming me back down. “Hey, my angel… I’m right here.” I can hear her laughing at my sudden, and uncontrollable crying…even though I can laugh right through it with her. I can see her face, while she shakes her head and hides her giggle while I scold one of my kids. She’s helping me control that “throat lump,” and I’m pretty happy about that.
**Author Note: I needed to write this, as this blog started because of our relationship, and the things that we came across in our journey. Because of our trips, and because she supported the venture. I will warn you that it’s a little ramble-y, but so was she. And I think she would love it. I wanted everyone who stops by this blog to know how much she meant to me, and will always mean to me. I hope you enjoy reading more about my GG.**
I held strong through her passing. Of course, I had my moments, and the day of the funeral…well, my body is still paying for my breakdown days later. Scleroderma doesn’t do mucous. Carrying out her final wishes was difficult, and really emotional. Collecting pictures, as many as I could, to make “something they can look at” to remember her by. She also had a playlist. A laminated, index card, with stickers with more songs she had added in more recent years, with her wishes taped, so they were sure to be there for me when the time came. Making the CDs for people was a challenge, but listening to the songs was even harder. (Except for the one.. “Jump on It”… which I will never quite understand.) A few of them she taught me years before on the organ, and a few others she whistled for years in my childhood.
If I close my eyes, I can still hear her now… It’s Edelweiss, and it’s beautiful. I had to really push through the long weekend, and some hurt feelings, to make these things for people. But I did it, and fabulously, just as she would’ve. It wasn’t about me…only her. And her relationships with everyone. I feel so.. loved.. knowing that she trusted me to carry these things out for her. And I’m so happy I was able to. I added in the song we always listened to together…You Got It. I added my touches in here and there, down to making she wore the bracelet I made her while she was still “here,” and had a very special angel figurine in with her, for the journey. We even made sure she had her smokes, AND lighter…just in case she needed to ease her nerves. (Ok, that whole last sentence made me giggle out loud…lord, if you only knew the relationship she had with her smokes.)
I am so happy for her, to be done suffering, and living the life that trapped her in bed, she just hated it. Her last months were not favorable, no good, and extremely hard to watch. I really lost touch with her the past few months, because I think, her spirit left over the summer. I’ve said it a few times already…it’s barely been a week, and I can feel her now more than I have been able to in months. She always promised me, teased me in fact, that she’d haunt me when she left. I can smile now knowing she’s here, and I smile even bigger now because she knows all my thoughts. And now she knows that I welcome her “haunting” me. But.. I did advise her on times she may not want to hang around. My husband appreciated that. 😉
This loss has really taken me on an emotional ride. We didn’t just have a one-leveled relationship. First, I struggled as a granddaughter. My childhood memories are filled with her, as I spent multiple days out of the week with her as my “babysitter,” too. We did so much together, and she taught me more than she would ever admit to. Everything crafting I had done by the time I was 10. Make a quilt? Sure! By hand? Absolutely. Did we paint? Oh yes. We did paint. We gardened, we went for nature walks, she took me to her Lionness club meetings. We sat quietly together on the front porch swing, and she read me awesome books. Sometimes when it rained, we’d go sit out there, and I’d lay my head on her lap. She’d swing, whistle songs, and pet my hair. Her recipes mean more to me now than they ever did before, and I am so glad I’ve got them out of my brain and on paper. Saved. Printed. Published.
Secondly, this hit me on a caretaker level. She was like my 4th child. Being responsible for a whole other person, that’s NOT a real child, is really hard! No one really tells you just how hard, or the different ways of “hard” that you’ll come across. So much of my and my kids schedules were based on her, her needs, and when she liked to do certain things. Of course, once the nursing home hit, that did change a bit. (*And please don’t think I’m complaining! I’m simply telling this story to it’s end. And I’ll keep telling this story until I get tired of telling this story, which lets face it, is about my most favorite person ever…so, there.) Doing things for her is so routine, and natural. It’s been so many years doing it, that I find myself now sitting wondering what I’ll do instead of her things… I worry about how her passing will affect my kids. They loved her like no other, and often begged to go see her. We’d do crafts with her, they’d make things for her, and they all loved spending time with each other. In her last years, her mentality, I swear, matched my kids most of the time. I think that’s why they all got along so well. I’ll never forget the things I heard, and saw, just from sitting back watching the 4 of them interact.
Thirdly, I lost one of my best friends, and supporters. I could tell this woman anything, and she wouldn’t judge me, or have a bad word to say. She always supported my ventures, businesses, writing, and even backed some of my really stupid teenage decisions. I could call her when my illnesses flared, and just listen to her talk. She knew I needed the distraction, and I could get through it. She was there to talk me through the hatred that I was dealing with, from certain people in my life, and remind me that I can’t help what other people say, feel, or do.
I wish that you could’ve known her, and if you did know her, you know where I get my rambling from. HA! (Well, one of the places…) She was amazing. She dealt with a lot of turmoil in her life, both in her childhood, and her adult life. She always tried to find the positive aspects in them, even if that meant with the heaviest dose of sarcasm and teeth grinding there was. (Err, minus the teeth!) She was supportive, even of those who made terribly bad decisions in life. She often blamed herself for their issues, and never saw the amazingness that we saw in her every day.
She was funny, and loved singing silly songs. She was SUPER good at quilting. In fact, the last quilt she made was for a nursing home roommate’s daughter. The roommate passed away while she was making it, and she was beyond determined to finish it before her own demise. It was close, but she did it. It was beautiful, too. I’d like to think that she left me with a big ole dose of her sarcasm and tolerance, because man did she have a lot of it! Strength. Passion. Creativity. Determination. Love. Friendship. Patience. Respect. Wife. Mother. Grandma.
I’m so thankful for you, Grandma. I know now that you do know how much you meant to me, because I know you’ve been listening to everything flowing out of my mouth. You were a wonderful woman, who will live on in our hearts for our lifetime. Thank you for everything you taught me about life, love, and people. Thank you for trusting me to help you when you needed it. Thank you for helping me, in your end. I love you to the moon and back, and I always will. Now our roles are reversed, you see.. You’re my angel now. And I’m the luckiest girl in the world.
Have fun up there, Barbara Jean…
I’ll see you again someday.
Native American Prayer for the Grieving
I give you this one thought to keep-
I am with you still, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints of snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circles flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone-
I am with you still,
In each new dawn.