It wasn’t the normal grandparent relationship. The kind where you only saw them on holidays and received a card once a year on your birthday. It was never the relationship where visits and phone calls were an obligation. Grandma Nancy was such an integral part of our daily lives. From impromptu meals and outings to biweekly bible studies and weekly church services to school programs and ball games. She was there in the important moments and the daily details. And I hate that I’m using the past tense in writing about her.
This morning she left us. From being officially diagnosed with stage 4 cancer on July 9th to her death on August 9th, it was the shortest 30 days I’ve ever experienced. And some of the most painful.
I realize that I’m fortunate to have experienced such a significant loss only once in all of my 32 years. And don’t think for one moment that I’m not thankful for that. Now that I’m walking this journey of grief, my respect for anyone who has walked this walk more than once shot up a few notches. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
It hurts to breathe… it hurts just sitting here. With every beat of my heart, my body cries. And every time I think I’m getting a little bit better, I’m quickly reminded that this is just the beginning.
Grandma slipped into a coma on Monday and so the past three days have been lived in a sort of alternate reality. These past four days were experienced in a fog… Looking back, I’m not sure any one of us has a crystal clear idea of all that transpired in those days. Today was spent trying to recreate the timeline from last Thursday through today, and I can’t tell you how many corrections were made or how many it took to finally complete the whole thing.
I will never regret keeping the Littles with me during the first two days. The sounds of their laughter and play filled the background, everyone taking breaks from Grandma’s bedside to interact with the babies. It was a stark contrast, death and sadness in one room and the sounds of youth and beginnings in the other.
One of my most treasured memories from these past days, and a healing balm for my heart, were the moments Reagan stole into Grandma’s room to sit in my lap at her side. We sang song after song, from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to Jesus Loves Me to Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. I watched as she reached her little hand through the bars of Grandma’s hospital bed to stroke her skin. There we sat, three generations of women, connected by song and touch. I’m not sure Reagan will ever know how much those moments meant to me.
This morning, before the funeral home arrived to take Grandma’s body, I grabbed my phone, Pandora’s Hillsong station already on play, and left. By myself. I went for a walk, to the fields east of my parents home, and climbed to the highest point of the tallest mound. As ludicrous as it sounds, I just had to get as close to God as I could. There I sat and wailed. Not the feminine tears that trickle down one’s face, but with the cries and wails of a person in pain. I had no idea I was capable of such sounds.
I’m not ready. I’m not ready for her to be gone, to have this void in my life. I want to see her at more of Hudson’s games, I want to hear her tell my mom she isn’t doing it right when we pickle over Labor Day weekend. I want to hear her laugh at Elliana and Reagan’s antics. I want to see her hold more grandbabies. I want one more card in the mail, with the gift card she knows she’s not supposed to buy. I want one more meal where she grabs and pays the bill before anyone even knows the waiter dropped it off. And I especially want to hear her call me “Jenn-Jenn” just one more time.
I know she’s healed, free from the pain. I know she’s dancing on streets of gold, worshipping our Lord alongside her Mama and Daddy. I know she’s cuddling Christine’s babies, the ones who were conceived and lost in a short time. I know that the beauty of her eternity is laid out and ends at the glory of our God. But the fact of the matter is, she’s there and I’m here. And that reality is far more painful than I ever imagined.
30 days. It just wasn’t long enough…