My grandmother is dying. She’s at home in Bell Buckle; she doesn’t want to go to the hospital, and I’m glad. A priest is coming today to give her communion. She’s ready to go, to be free. She has been ready to move on for a while now, but she really wants to die now that Henry has died. She told me two weeks ago that she will take care of Henry for me until I get there – wherever “there” is. I know she will.
I was her firstborn grandchild, and Henry was her firstborn great grandchild. She and I have always been exceptionally close – and I am more like her in temperament, talents and quirky shortcomings than I am like anyone else. My parents used to call me “little Nancy.” She and Henry were also very, very close. He would sit on her lap for hours while she told him stories and read history and poetry to him. They adored one another. His descent into addiction broke her heart and his death was a beyond-terrible blow to her.
I am trying to figure out when to go to Bell Buckle to make sure I get to say goodbye. I am very busy at work, but I don’t want to wait too long. I don’t know if I should wait until I finish the work week or ask my employer if I can go sooner. We’ve already canceled G’s christening, which was supposed to take place on Sunday, as well as the post-christening luncheon we were hosting. But I just don’t know when I should leave Knoxville to go back to Bell Buckle. I feel kind of overwhelmed by the decision.
I know it will be very hard for me to once again – so soon after losing Henry – sit with someone I adore as she dies. Of course, this time, the person in question is in her 90s, and has had a full and wonderful life. She is 100% accepting of her imminent death, and isn’t frightened in the least. But from a purely selfish perspective, I know the experience of being with someone I love as she prepares to die will make those last days with Henry all come rushing back to me. And that won’t be easy. It’s only been 5 months.
Here’s a slideshow I put together last year with photos spanning my grandmother’s remarkable life and career. My favorite is the one of her with Julie Andrews, sharing a beer.