You Will Not Be Alone

by Susan Pogorzelski on May 17, 2011 · 6 comments

(Now Comes The Night)

And when the day has all but ended
And our echo starts to fade
No, you will not be alone then
And you will not be afraid
No, you will not be afraid…

My memories of her aren’t as strong as I wish they could be, but I remember enough to miss her everyday — every single day — and to wish that she were here now, to wish that I could have really had the chance to know her and love her as I could have loved her then, as I love her now.

What I’m left with are scattered memories and overheard stories, moments suspended in time. And yet, she has had such a huge impact on my life…I wish that she could know that. I wish that she could see me now and know that part of who I am is because of her.

I wish…

Oh, there’s so much I wish

My grandmother was the strongest and gentlest woman I’ve ever known, but I didn’t realize that until years after her passing. The woman I knew had always been fragile through age and illness, and while, as children she helped to take care of us, there came a point when the roles reversed, when it was us who made sure she didn’t hide bologna sandwiches in her dresser drawers instead of eating them, when we put on the hockey game in her room and stayed to keep company, when we visited the nursing home when she couldn’t come home from the hospital after falling.

When her memory began to fade.

When she began to fade
.

And when we faded from her.

We watched as she confused my brothers for her brothers, as she confused me for my mom. We held her hand as she cried for her mother; we held each other and cried when she no longer recognized us.

Even now, years later, the heartache leaves me breathless — the pain still fresh, the love still strong, and the overwhelming sorrow unlike anything I’ve ever known…Not even watching my grandfather turn from the strong, hearty man to one weakened by illness, not even being there as my three beloved dogs died within a year and a half from each other. Not even those heartaches can do it justice, though heartaches they still remain.

Maybe it’s because I’ve made peace with everything but this. Maybe it’s because I had a chance with Grandpa…A chance to love him not because I had to, as a child is supposed to, but to love him as an adult chooses.

And when we sat with him in hospice, my brother and I alone and standing beside his bed, when I reached for his weakened, wrinkled hand and told him I loved him, when I heard his whispered, “I love you, too,” I knew that he heard me. He knew we were there — and maybe he didn’t feel so forgotten, maybe he didn’t feel so alone.

Maybe it’s why, despite my dad’s tear-filled protests and well-meaning, I refused to listen and hopped in the backseat anyway when we had to drive the dogs to the vet, expected yet unprepared each time, when I held their head in my lap, stroking their fur as they raised their eyes to my tearstained and reddened cheeks, as if repeating back to me that it was all OK, as if echoing that they knew how much they were loved, as if knowing we were there and they weren’t alone.

When the fog has finally lifted
From my cold and tired brow
No, I will not leave you crying
And I will not let you down.

No, I will not let you down…

My grandma was alone. Mom and I had visited her in the nursing home that afternoon — I was in the car with Mom when she received the call that Grandma wasn’t doing well, and though she tried to fight me, I’m her and dad’s daughter and know how to play the stubborn game, too. I wasn’t about to leave her, not now, not when we’d already been through too much, not when this was her own mother, and not when I feared the same scenario that only seems inevitable…

Not when I fear losing my mom — my very best friend — someday, too.

We said our goodbyes without saying goodbye.

We left the nursing home knowing it would be for the last time, but neither of us willing to voice it.

I was in bed when the phone rang that night. My brothers and parents and I gathered in the living room, the darkness outside contrasting the warm glow of the overhead track lights inside.

My mom and dad shared memories of the woman she was — the woman before my grandmother. Stories of how she was a trendsetter and New York City career-woman, stories of how she bought a house on her own for her father and brothers and sisters and their families to move into; stories of how she married my late grandfather despite a fierce independence.

Stories I had heard a thousand times before…

Stories I’ll give anything to hear over and over again.

If only to have her here again for those few minutes it takes to tell them.

If only to tell her thank you for loving me, thank you for guiding me.

Thank you.

Now comes the night
Feel it fading away
And the soul underneath
Is it all that remains
So just slide over here
Leave your fear in the fray…

These past few weeks, I’ve been fighting for a sense of identity, trying to understand who I am and what that encompasses, all the while longing desperately for others to understand me as I really am, too.

And today, I realized why:

I don’t want to be forgotten.

And I don’t want to ever forget.

Let us hold to each other
Until the end of our days…

Maybe this is why I hold on so dearly to everything that I love, why I’m so desperately afraid to move on, move forward. Because goodbye may mean so long, for now, but it still means saying goodbye.

And I don’t want them to forget. I don’t ever want them to forget how much I love them, how much I’ve always loved them, I just didn’t have the words for it then, when I was so young, I didn’t know…

I don’t want to ever not know; I don’t want to have to say goodbye without taking the time for them, without knowing them, without loving them as they deserve to be loved, without showing them and telling them how much I love them now, how I’ll love them always.

I know how precious a memory is now. I know how fleeting a moment and how fragile this life can be.

I know that I’m not ready to say goodbye again.

I know that someday I’ll have to.

No, you will not be forgotten
No, you will not be alone.
Rob Thomas, “Now Comes The Night”

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

lyssa May 17, 2011

Susan, only you could capture such sentiment and emotion. Obviously you know I share the same feelings as you. I lost my grandfather -my heart- and I’m in constant fear of losing other people who mean the works to me whilst trying to just enjoy all the time I’m privileged enough to share with them. Thank you for sharing such strong honest feelings.

Reply

Susan Pogorzelski May 24, 2011

Thanks, Alyssa — and so much love to you, I know the heartache that you’re going through.

It’s funny. I didn’t realize how close my grandmother and I were until she passed, because I was too young to really remember her taking care of me but instead remembered taking care of her. I have the memories of us playing, of watching out the window together for my brothers to come home on the school bus, of those precious moments when she was there. But then she wasn’t. And now, I find I’m mourning not just her, but for all the time that we didn’t have.

And now I’m trying to ease the fear of losing other people I love while realizing how grateful I am for them, trying to spend as much time with them as I can, when I can, as you articulate so well. Maybe that’s enough. But it never feels like enough.

I love you. So much love and hugs and wishes for a peace-filled heart.

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Positively Present May 18, 2011

What a beautiful post, Susan. So well-written, as always!

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Susan Pogorzelski May 24, 2011

Thanks, Dani…And thanks, as always, for being here.

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Audrey1119 May 18, 2011

How you always hit the right note is amazing…
This subject is so real, so present and in a way such a taboo, I think. It’s not that we CAN’T talk about it but people often don’t want to, thinking that talking can’t help if someone you love has incurable disease. It can make it even worse to hear it out loud sometimes.
But after you say it, after you hear it, after you write it… It’s not just a story of pain, it’s a story of fighting, no matter if your loved one has survived it, it’s a story of importance of that person to you, and ultimately it’s a story of love.
It’s been five years since we lost my grandfather… Not a day passes that I don’t miss him, that WE don’t miss him. We don’t talk about him often, but the feeling of empty space where he used to sit, his seat at our family dinner table where my sister (born month before his death) sits.
Very rarely but I always treasure those small miracles, I come home and when I put my bag and keys on the table I raise my head and…there he is sitting in his armchair…

As in everything else, in death too, love is the only thing that survives no matter what. So, I guess, life is not as complicated as we think. No matter who you have now, who you had, who you will have… just love and you will be remembered. And you will have someone to remember.

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Susan Pogorzelski May 24, 2011

Audrey: Thanks so much for your comment and for being here. I know from our emails how familiar you are with losing a grandparent, and my heart goes out to you, too. Watching someone through an illness may be one of the most difficult experiences — at the same time, you’re absolutely right, and I love your words — it’s a testament to what we’re all about, what my grandmother and my family is about, what this world is ultimately about — love.

And I can’t think of my grandmother without equating her with love.

And apparently I can’t think of her without tearing up, either. So I’m going to cut this comment short and just say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for every single word you wrote, it brings such comfort. May you find that comfort as well.

<3

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