• 64°

She didn’t even know my name

I sit outside the building, in my car, trying to get up the courage to get out and walk inside.

I have come to visit a lady who means the world to me, but each visit is more difficult and sadder and shorter. I also know she deserves the visits no matter how hard they are – I can’t not go – my heart will not let me stay away.

In my youth, she was my penpal, my confidant and sounding board. I could tell her anything and she would dole out the best advice. Later, as I got older, we had long telephone conversations. She had worked hard the majority of her life. Had raised children on her own. She buried children, her parents and a grandchild and two husbands.

I was thankful, in the latter stages of her life, she had an easier life. She had the things she needed and had the few things she just wanted. She got to travel and meet new people – and she loved people! She was loved by all who knew her.

She was quick to smile and had a belly shaking laugh – it was infectious. She was a great cook. I thought of the pretty brooches she used to wear and the pearl necklace and the clip-on earrings. She was always neat and so very pretty. She was a christian and told me many times that when she had nothing, when things were at the worst and grief was almost unbearable – the good Lord always helped her and she could always depend on him, and that I should always love the Lord.

All the things I admired about her and loved about her are now gone. The bright twinkling eyes that sometimes had a hint of mischief, the smile, the laugh, the fastidious appearance – her dignity – everything.

Advanced age, with declining health, and advanced cognitive decline have robbed her, and those who love her, of her personality, her spirit and her love. All those things are now locked away somewhere and can’t find the way back.

She doesn’t recognize me, and no longer knows my name.

I slowly get up and open the door. I hesitate for just a minute, trying to armor myself for how she will be today. I enter the common room and look around. No, I don’t see her. I head down the hall toward her room and many smells assault me. I reach the nurses’ desk and I see her – sitting in a wheelchair, head hanging and hands lying idle in her lap. Her expression is blank – unaware and unknowing.

I slowly walk to her – kneel in front of her – and speak softly. I tell her about my family. I tell her i miss her. There is no response but I continue to talk and remind her of the things we used to do. My lips start to quiver and my eyes tear up – it takes all my will power to continue. I know I need to leave –  I won’t be able to contain the sadness that is threatening to escape. After a few minutes of silence, I gently cup her face with my hands, and call her by the endearing nickname given to her years ago: “Hootie, I love you.” and just for a breathtaking moment I saw a glimmer of something- or maybe I just needed to – but it was gone just as quickly as it came.

Sobs escape me and I turn to leave before the flood gates open, but, oh, how I wanted my grandmother to say my name.

My grandmother left this earth in February of 2007, but it feels like yesterday. The visit I just described was my last visit with her, December of 2006.

I’m very thankful to have had her for all the years that I did. I miss her. My faith, family and friends are the most precious things on earth. I know she will be waiting in heaven with that beautiful smile.

Phillipians 1:3 (KJV) I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.

Hug a family member – and be thankful.