I’ve said goodbye to my Nana (Grandma) many times before. But last week I said goodbye for the last time. Well, the last time on this earth anyway. It was one of the most powerful moments of my entire life. Nana was 84 years old and her body was giving out. She – still sweet, soft and beautiful – lay in a hospital bed. I knew when I entered her room that I was saying goodbye, but when she offered me a gift, I didn’t expect it.
Nana had already given me lots of gifts. When we visited her house as kids (she lived three hours away), she gave us her undivided attention. We spent hours in her craft room, which is one of my favorite rooms ever. There were drawers full of ribbon and tape and paper and paint. Jars of brightly colored beads lined the shelves. Dried flowers and glossy gift bags decorated the walls. The room also contained that thing we weren’t allowed to touch – that apparatus which should have been locked in a cabinet – the glue gun. It was amazing what Nana could do with a glue gun.
She spent a lot of time cooking for us. I can’t remember ever eating at a restaurant when we visited her house. I’m sure I gained weight every meal. She always welcomed us with a big pile of fresh cookies. In the morning, she let our parents sleep in while she cooked us a big breakfast. And lunch wasn’t soon after. Then came dinner followed by ice cream covered in chocolate fudge, served in a deep blue country bowl.
When Nana came to my wedding, it must not have been easy. Colette and I were married in Colorado; she lived in Pennsylvania. Nana took several planes to get to us. Pop Pop (Grandpa) had passed away earlier in the year, so Nana was attending without him. Actually this was probably her first wedding since he died. But if it was difficult for her, you couldn’t tell. She looked radiant. At the start of the ceremony, she walked slowly and gracefully down the aisle carrying a yellow rose, which was a tribute to Pop Pop. I stood at the front, watching her the whole time. As she smiled at me, my heart welled with thanks that she was there.
As Nana lay in her hospital bed, I stepped close to say goodbye. I inhaled a deep breath, telling myself it would take courage to pour my heart out. I was already crying and I knew my words would bring more tears. But this was goodbye and I had to be strong. I opened my mouth and said a lot of things, which are between me and her. I cried hard, so hard I couldn’t even speak at times. But after awhile I was done, so I kissed her forehead and stepped aside. Nana died 45 minutes later.
There will be no more crafts, no more cookies, no more smiles, no more kisses – these are all memories now. But what lives on is the legacy of Nana’s unexpected gift. It’s not often we tell people what they mean to us. She invited me to do that for her, offered me that amazing opportunity. And I accepted. And I’m so grateful for her gift.
We don’t know what a day will hold, don’t know if we’ll have tomorrow, don’t know if we’ll get to pour out our hearts to the ones we love. So why not start now? Why not tell people what they mean to us? Why not say true things even if it’s messy? Take a deep breath, stir up some courage and open your mouth.
Tomorrow might be too late.