The old adage goes you regret what you don’t do, or in my case, say.
The last day I saw my grandmother is mine. The visit loops in my mind, over and over again. I should have told her I loved her. Upon our departure I was going to, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Every time I opened my mouth to speak, my throat closed up, like if I did, I would birth the frog stuck in it… and cease to breath.
I would tell her next time. But next time never came. In a hospice with an amputated leg, due to cigarette related cancer, she welcomed death. She stopped eating food altogether, making a single exception for my father’s cow feet (this is a Caribbean dish and yes it’s delicious).
The energy of death is humid, heavy and stifling, permeating this poorly furnished, florescent room. Imagine endless bodies hooked to I.V’s, laying listlessly on hospital beds. All these people waiting to die, limbo exist.
We circle around her dismantled body, proffering her a final meal. This is her only moment of lucidity. When the aroma hits, she garners what little strength she has to sit up and eat. For a moment delusion transfers from her to me; she was so sharp I foolishly thought she would heal. I didn’t want her to leave me so bad. I would believe anything to make this go away. But it didn’t last long, shortly after finishing she descends back into the fog: forgetting who we are, mixing things up, creating events that never occurred. The beloved, vivacious, charismatic, funny woman, the life of the party is gone, even before she dies.
For what I didn’t know would be my last time I look at her. I want to tell her she is my favorite person, my hero; that if I could I would switch places with her, that I love her. But I couldn’t do it, because in my family being sensitive was seen as weak. As a child my mother often chided me for this characteristic, making me ashamed to show emotion. It wasn’t until I got older, that I learned being vulnerable, to let your guard down, open your heart to others, is actually a marker of strength. Not weakness. Anybody can be cruel, but to be vulnerable is for the brave.
I will always wish I was brave that day.