Don’t Walk Away
Many people I’ve loved, truly loved, have walked out of my life. At 31 years, I expect it to be an occurrence that will happen more than a few times going forward. My Grandmother was afflicted with dementia. The year before she died, I traveled to Arizona to escort her back to the east coast. I had shaved my head, and grew a goatee, but she remembered me (even though she thought I was going to fly the plane home). She barely remembered anyone anymore, but she knew who I was.
When she passed, she did not go quickly. For a week I sat by her bedside, talking to her, and holding her hand; she made me cry many times during this exchange.
“I want to go home…” she said.
“You can go.” I told her. “But I’ll miss you.” She aimed her face at me, that same face the told me to listen in church, and assured me everything would be ok, and once told me I’d have enemies everywhere, but I was the one that I needed to worry about; I could almost feel her hands, like paper, touching me, assuring me.
“It wont be forever.” She smiled.
That stuck with me. Now, I can convince myself it was the dementia, but with eyes closed she told me “It wont be forever.” Her mind may have meant something else, but to me it didn’t, it wont ever be forever.
One day, she held my hand. I’m sure she was asleep, I’d been sure of it for days, but she squeezed, she introduced me to her parents, whoM I had never met and had passed many years before, but she wanted me to meet them so badly. She’d sleep while I read Neil Gaiman to her. She smiled from time to time, and I told her stories from when we were both younger.
When she passed she knew everything I said, and she had a lifetime of people waiting for her. Anyone who knew her would expect no less than an army of souls waiting to greet her.
One of the last days I waited by her bedside, there were a small group of people at her bedside, holding hands and letting her know we were there. An old friend, Barbara, came to her. She held her hand, and stroked her hair; I sat in my same chair on my grandmother’s right side. From her left, Barbara said to her:
“You might not remember me, but I sure do remember you”
In my memory, she smiled. But I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t care, really, I just care that she smiled. “I sure do remember you.’
I couldn’t even scratch the surface of what she did, of the person she was; and who she will always be to me. She anchored me; and I’m sorry she will never see the man I might become. Any belief I carry in me, is not for me its for her. So she might be there to see what happens to a sheep; so very lost by its Shepard.
Frances Barnett was loved. She was my grandmother; and because of her, three children, and seven grandchildren, and a gaggle of great grandchildren that might not remember what a hero actually looks like, I will remember her; she left us one day in October, I’ll miss her, but she taught me, “it wont be forever.”