I may have mentioned in recent months that this year 2014 has been one of many departures, each of which has been significant to me personally. Between May 28 and September 1st it seems surreal to note that this house has been affected by somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 or more deaths of family and close friends.
I lost count. Sure it has been at least 8. Now…my ex-mom-in-law can be added to the toll…sadly. She died last night in her son’s home.
She was affectionately known to my daughters as simply, ‘Gee-Ma’. It was less than a month and one half ago that we learned “Gee-Ma” had mere months to live; advanced liver and gallbladder cancer. It was a shocking revelation. My girls were devastated to realize that their beloved “Gee-Ma” was not to be long for this world. Even I, was saddened and affected by the news.
We went to the hospital a few weeks ago to visit. It was there that knew I had something vital in my heart to reveal to “Gee-Ma”…the quiet exchange between us left me overwhelmed with emotion as I hurried away afterward.
It was the last time I would see her. I knew that in my heart of hearts. I made the best of my brief visit.
When I married her troubled and violence-prone son (which I honestly had NO IDEA about back then) she and I were certainly less than familial toward one another. Of course, as I look back, it was HE that was the catalyst and our shared nemesis for undermining the relationship she and I should have had from the beginning. Over the years, for our girls’ sakes, I naturally remained connected to this woman whom I really barely knew. Birthdays and holidays HERE at my current home — celebrated for the girls and Holly’s babies, my grandsons, helped us to bond as friends but more importantly, as family…like we’d never been able to do when I was married to her son, decades ago.
So, in late September, as I visited with her alone, I stroked her hair and told her that I appreciated the wonderful and loving Grandma she’d always been to the girls…I thanked her heartily for the nurturing care she gave as she helped to raise them, along with myself, and my Mom…that I was always blessed that for the most part, they were the primary caregivers to them as I struggled to juggle 2 full-time jobs and a part-time job; back before I went on to pursue my dream to become a funeral director…for without their roles in my girls’ tender young lives, I would have been unable to manage as well as I did as their mother.
We really were a family, in the end. I felt I had to say so, out loud, that last day that I saw her. I wanted her to fully know what was in my heart. The sincere appreciation and respect I held for her. I just felt there was no way I’d let her leave this world without hearing me put into words, that which I truly felt. It surprised me to be so moved and affected by this personal conversation with her. I thanked her, also, for attending my own father’s wake and funeral…the gesture which moved me incredibly at that time…considering she really didn’t know him, thanks to the massive load of turmoil and animus brought about by her son’s brutal treatment of me.
I stifled the heaving sobs trying to escape as I said ‘good-bye’ that day…hurrying from that hospital bedside and down the hall to the lobby before I burst into tears and allowing the heart-felt grief to escape me there, out of earshot of her room.
Indeed…I will remember that day for the rest of my life.
My heart is heavy today. But, I do know this: the peace I feel for having that little talk with her that day is indescribable. I didn’t want to ‘assume’ she “knew” my heart and my feelings of appreciation for the part she played in my life and my girls’ lives…the words needed to be said aloud. I am so blessed to have been given the courage I needed to say what had to be said.
Thank you again, Grandma Jan…thanks for being beloved “Gee-Ma.’ May you rest in peace, my friend. Things will not be the same here without you.
.©2014, C.S. Thompson.