Death is, for me, a consecrated moment in time. A deeply spiritual event that I can’t fully articulate. For me, there is only one way to experience death – and that is to be present in it. To feel the weight of every aspect of life – good and bad. To be open to what is happening – what will happen.
I learned the hard lesson of being closed off to life and death when my Grampa died. I remember hearing “Stage 4 Lung Cancer….Nothing else we can do.” and yet I was completely baffled when he died two weeks later. I remember being blindsided by the entire event. Unable to grasp what was happening. Unable to say goodbye. Unable to really allow myself to be present.
I wish I had been able to understand. I don’t have many regrets but not saying goodbye to my Grampa is one of them.I fully remember, and to this day feel, the heavy weight of regret that came from not telling him goodbye. I was his little Rose – and yet – I couldn’t figure out how to allow myself to sit near him. To hold his hand. To tell him I loved him. And to be there for him. With him. When I feel emotionally vulnerable, I shut down. I wall up. I close off. And that’s kind of what I did when my Grampa was dying.
When my Gramma died – I didn’t want that regret. So no matter how painful it was – I forced myself to feel it. To experience it. To stay open.
It was a few years after Grampa’s death when I received a strange call from my Gramma. She spoke of her love for Jesus and how excited she was to see Grampa again. I couldn’t begin to grasp what she was trying to tell me. I called my Mom and said, “Gramma and I just had the weirdest conversation….” My Mom explained that my Gramma was saying goodbye. Heartbroken, I cried.
About a month later my Gramma lay in a hospital bed, weakened from a stroke. It was January 2005. She was hanging on for dear life. But her spirit was as strong as any healthy body. I felt it when I walked into the hospital room. She couldn’t open her eyes, so I opened them for her. She looked at me. My tears fell. I closed her eyes and I grabbed her hand. I held her hand for hours. For the short second I let go of her hand to stretch my fingers, she reached for me. I sat at her bedside for almost 12 hours that night. Holding her hand.
Between the time I arrived at the hospital and when she left us through death, I made a personal commitment to be present. To be vulnerable. To let myself feel the pain of this loss. To acknowledge what was happening. To stand and watch. To be open. To hear. To feel. To see. To sense this. To know this. To understand this. When the moment came for my Gramma to let go of her last breath, there was such a sense of peace. As a family we gathered around my Grandma – ushering her out of this life with hymns, prayers, and peace. There was heart ache and a deep, sad, grief. But peace.
My Gramma and Grampa were absolutely instrumental in my life. If not for them – there’s no telling where I would be today. I’m so grateful my Mom worked so hard to have them in our lives. And I’m genuinely sad they’re really gone. I never imagined a life without them. They really weren’t that old when they both died.
I wrote this post tonight after shedding tears over the upcoming loss of Scott. He will be leaving this world soon. His brain cancer is growing and things are changing almost daily. It was just a few months ago when Scott was all smiles because his brain tumor was in remission. But then it came back, with a vengeance.
Scott and his family are known to me by the internet. I met Scott on Twitter a few years ago and sent him some geeky “Movember” stickers I had picked up at WordCamp Austin in 2013. Over the last two years I’ve grown to really admire Scott and his family – especially in the way they have managed this completely unfair curveball.
So to my sweet friends who are preparing their precious family for Scott, an amazing husband and father of four young children, to leave this life: the weight of what you must face, walk through, and endure is heavy – but you are not alone. You are not alone. I love that you are sharing this journey with all of us on Instagram and Twitter. I love the way you are allowing your children to be a part of this chapter of your lives together. I have no real practical advice except to push yourself to stay open. Stay present. Stay ready. Accept this as the consecrated time in your lives that it is. And remember the love you have for Scott will never leave you. It will always be with you. It will never let you go. And that’s a beautiful thing.
I sing this song to myself often. It heals me. It soothes my soul on weary days. On long days. On heavy days. It reminds me of my Gramma, whom I could always call and ask her to pray for me. And I would find out she had already been praying for me, having woken up from a dream about me.
I hope it offers healing for you as well in this time of grief, bewilderment, and loss. It is my prayer for you all.
Scott passed away on Wednesday, August 4th. At home. Peacefully.
He said goodbye to his children.
His wife stayed with him through the night.
My heart goes out to his family.