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.
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.
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”