We came. We made it. Sort of.
Technically Nana is still alive; her heart beats, she draws breath. Her breathing is laboured and there are gaps, huge pauses when I do not know if she will take another breath. And soon I expect she won’t.
Her body is stiff and her face skeletal. Her mouth fixed open in a grotesque caricature of her former self. I take photo’s of my crying children, but I cannot take any of my Nana like this. This is not my Nana. This is a shell she is breaking free from, a cocoon she is shrugging off.
We touch her and talk to her and tell her we love her. My Daughter Number Two walks around Nana’s room, looking at photo’s of us all with Nana. She looks at photo’s of the sister she will never know outside of other people’s memories and she says that she wishes her sister had not died so early. She cries for her Nana, she is sad that she is dying. She is at an age where she can comprehend death and she speaks with a matter of factness that both saddens and comforts me. I ask if she is scared. She answers no and she isn’t. She sees death as a part of life. And it is.
When we talk to Nana, and touch her, she makes guttural sounds with her exhaled breaths. Is it coincidence? Is it her way of telling us to leave her to rest or is she just letting us know she hears us and she knows we are there? I don’t know. The nurses say she can hear us and I think where ever she hovers between life and death she probably can.
The staff are amazing, as they always have been. There is an oil burner going in the room and a soothing cd. They have made Nana as comfortable as possible. While I am there a nurse tells me she had looked after Nana during some of her time there, that she is a lovely lady. She puts her palm on Nana’s head and simply says to her ‘It was nice to meet you’ before leaving us in private.
It is hard to be there, and hard to see my Nana like this, and Son Number Two crumples with the weight of his grief. It is infinitely preferable to have this time though, to say ‘I love you’, to be there, to bear witness. Infinitely preferable to how we have done death before. In death, in dying, there is the possibility of dignity. A luxury not afforded many of us throughout our lives. And after life there is no more suffering. Of this much I am sure.
Three states, three time zones, planes, trains and automobiles. It has been a long day.
I listened to music on the plane over and my mind drifted. I thought about lunchtimes and how much I loved the whole ritual. Every single little aspect just filled me with such delight but more than that, with peace. I miss that. Oh, how I miss that.
We crossed the country by plane and then took a train two hours down the coast. For the last leg of our journey a friend drove up to collect us and bring us to Nana. Whatever troubles I have in my life I have been blessed with the most phenomenal friends. For all of you who made today’s cross country trek possible, who’ve made it easier by travelling with us, who love us without reserve or condition – THANK YOU. You are my friends, you are my family of the heart.
My Nana, she is my family but more important than that, she is my friend. Please wish her, as I wish you, safe onward travel.