I felt so honored to be sitting by my 89 year old grandmother’s hospital bed as she looked back at her life. I held her hand and she told me, “I hate to go, but I’m not afraid. Maybe I should be, but I’m not afraid.”
Fate allowed me to share this precious moment.
I was packing to leave that Saturday and feeling rather sorry for myself. I was flying with the baby for the first time and without my husband. Joe just wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trip and knew a plane ride would be too much. Yet, something in my heart told me I needed to go. My brother volunteered to go with me, since Joe couldn’t and he earned a badge of “super uncle” as he lugged a stroller through airport security.
The morning before we left, Joe told me how sad he was and how he didn’t want us to go. “What if the plane goes down?” He asked. “I’d lose everything, I just hate that I’m missing her first airplane ride too.”
It was heartbreaking to me that I was going without him but I knew I had to go. It was my nephews’ baptism and I wanted Mira to meet my grandparents. I started to explain this to Joe and I was shocked when tears streamed down my cheek as I said, “I think it’ll be the last time I see them.”
We made the trip and Mira was a champ. Our first stop was to my grandparent’s house in the retirement community. My grandma couldn’t wait to hold the baby and meet the newest addition to the family.
That night, my grandma’s heart stopped working.
There was a problem with her heart valve and she ended up on life support. Now, I don’t know what made me know I needed to make the trip, but whoever was pulling at my heart lead me to one of the most magnificent experiences of my life.
I cancelled my flight home and we all rushed to be at my grandmother’s side. It was hard to see her little body on the ventilators and even more gut-wrenching to see my 93 year old grandfather sobbing as he held her hand.
Through my journey into adulthood, I have stepped away from religion in an effort to find faith. I have searched for the spirituality to help me understand Joe’s cancer while fearing putting too much in God because I don’t want to be disappointed if he can’t fix it.
My grandma is a faith-filled woman who has lived her life inside the walls of the church and with a stash of rosaries in her purse. We knew as we watched what could have been her last breaths that she would have wanted nothing more than to have her whole family hand in hand and praying the words she’s lived her life by.
The tubes were removed from her chest and doctors couldn’t give us a timeline of what would happen next, so we prayed. We prayed the Hail Mary, over and over again. As the hours passed, my grandma gained strength and with her scratchy voice she joined us, even lead the prayers. The next days were a blur as we tried to decide what to do next, fly home? Wait for someone to die?
As my grandmother came to, she asked me, “How is Joe?” I told her he was thinking of her and not to worry. Now full dis-closure, my grandma can lay on the Catholic guilt like the best of them so I knew what would follow. Maybe she’d ask if we are going to church? If Joe would go to a priest? But I was as surprised as ever when she told me, “Joe doesn’t have to be Catholic, he doesn’t have to join the church, but I don’t want him to be afraid.”
Everyone should know this truth and live to be 90 to see the full circle of what faith is and why we cling to it when we aren’t sure what else can hold us up.
Would you believe it if I told you my little grandma went from life support to walking in two days? She’s a firecracker and must have a few more things to do on this earth.
I know my road to connect with faith and religion or whatever is out there is still long and rocky but I come closer and closer to finding peace within my journey. I’ll never forget seeing my grandmother find comfort in what she knows to be true.
She could close her eyes and say, “I’m not afraid.” It’s something we all hope for.