To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die.
Throughout my life there have been very few things that remained constant. Very few things that I could trust in. From childhood until recently the one constant I could always believe in, trust in and know with total uncertainty would always love me, be there for me, was my
grandmother, Marnie. From childhood it became very evident that she and I were cut from the same cloth. The older I got and the more time I had with her, solidified this. She was a caregiver, a fighter, a rock. In her quiet and unassuming way, she led a life that was never easy, filled with trails and hardships that for a long time she alone carried. She would sit and listen for hours to anyone that needed her, never letting on that she too carried life’s burden.
I know that she was not perfect. She had made mistakes over the years, as we all have. She drank at times to mask her pain, to hide from life. Looking back now that I am older, I wish I had seen it earlier, she hid it well. I don’t fault her for this, life takes its toll and she, as strong as she was, was no exception. But she loved, she lived, she laughed. She would find the humor in the darkest of moments. She taught me what it was to be a fighter, taught me that our reasons for being on this earth were to help others. That regardless of how hard life was, how beat down we felt, to reach out and help someone else, is why we were here. And in doing this, somehow along the way, we healed ourselves.
As the years went on, she and I were so close. With a home life that was far from stable, I would often spend weeks and months at a time with her and my grandfather. We would go for ice creams, play cards at the kitchen table, watch reruns of the Andy Griffith show. She loved that I could whistle the entire theme song. We would sit on the front porch and drink coffee and just talk. When my grandfather became ill, together we took care of him. She helped me to see that I too was a caregiver. She helped me to have faith in myself. At the end of his life, it was she and I that stayed up all night with him, talking softly to him. We were together
when he quietly died. Our bond cemented not only in life, but also now in death. His passing was peaceful and at home and I swore to her, that when the day came, it would be the same for her.
Years seem to fly by. I got older, as did she. But we never lost that bond. My husband and I married on her birthday; she gave him her wedding ring to give to me. She made a bet with me (she was always betting $5 on something) that she could make it through the whole wedding day without crying. All through the ceremony, the luncheon after, I kept sneaking glances, no tears. We had planned a surprise for her, a cake and a party hat and presents to be served after our wedding. We all sang happy birthday to her, all the while I kept looking for those tears.. Stubborn old bat, never shed a tear. She put the $5 I gave her in the frame from our place setting with a little note saying “HAHA I didn’t cry.” I have it still today.
As the years went on, she continued to play such a huge part in our lives. My stepson and husband quickly forged bonds with her that will never fade. She would flirt relentlessly with Marc (hubby) just to get him to blush; they would go back and forth and have each other laughing so hard the tears would stream down their faces. She sold her house after my grandfather died, moving in with my mother. She had her own little apartment built, with pink carpeting and a fireplace. Marc and I moved in as well, to help out with the house and to be close to her. She and I would have a smoke and a coffee every morning before I left for work and a visit every day when I got home. I would cook for her and she would iron anything she could get her hands on. She was the ironing queen. Our son would go spend hours with her, playing Uno and watching TV. He worshiped her and she him.
When we got the news that she was sick, she was just shy of 82. She had worked right up until this time. For years taking care of the elderly as she called them, most 20 years her junior, she even babysat for a new born, going everyday to their house to watch the baby so his parents could work. She loved that little baby, always telling us stories, and tales of his latest accomplishments.
She never, ever grew old, not mentally anyway. She never lost her independence, her humor or her strength.
Cancer. She chose quality of life over length. Choosing to live what time she had left surrounding by her family and her friends. Watching this illness, slowly wear away at her body; hurt me worse than I ever knew possible. But she made it so easy for all of us, never losing her sense of humor, even on the worst days. She planned on seeing her 83rd birthday, she guaranteed us that. For her 83rd birthday we bought her scratch tickets, one for every year of her life and a few more. She laughed so hard as she went through the stack of tickets, saying how she never won on those damn things, but she took so much joy in the possibility.
We had one final Christmas with her, one I will never forget. On Christmas eve, I had brought home a batman mask and cape. We had called her the old bat for as long as I could remember, she loved it. When she needed a walker to help her, we had a sign made that called it the “Bat
Mobile”. She and I made everyone close their eyes; she put on the mask and cape and proceeded to pose for the next 30 minutes. We laughed so hard we cried. Little did we know that in less than a month’s time, she would be gone. Once Christmas was over, she went downhill fast. We put a hospital bed in her living room, facing the big window. She was never alone. It was time for me to live up to that promise of taking care of her. It was her time. Oh,
she made it so easy. I remember at one point, when she couldn’t drink unassisted, I had gotten a sippy cup for her, our first attempted had failed as I had no idea there were plastic stoppers on the inside preventing her from getting any of the water. Once corrected, I tried again; I looked down at her and asked her if she was getting any? She looked up at me, grinned and said “Not lately”. This is who she was, even faced with death she found the strength for humor. As the days dwindled down to hours, she slowly became more at peace. She slept, spoke little. The day before she died, she was suddenly very alert, she grabbed my hand and motioned for me to bend down, as she rubbed my cheek, she whispered, Thank you. Thank you for taking care of me like you promised, I love you. This woman, who had given me everything for my entire life, who was on death’s doorstep, giving me one more gift. I would have done anything for her, but all she wanted, all she ever needed was, just me.
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of her passing. There is not a day that goes by when I do not think of her. It was my privilege to have had such an amazing woman, teach me, guide me, love me. I only hope that I can live my life as she, taking care of others, being strong and always, always remembering to find the humor, even in the darkest of life’s moments.
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