My grandmother is dying.
I lived with her for many years and feel that she had a big hand in turning me into this. Whatever I am today.
The last time I saw her was at our wedding in Chicago. Who I used to know as the most strong woman on the planet, had turned into a pistachio shell of that force that raised me. I could barely recognize the spark of stubbornness.
But on the morning of the wedding, I was told that she was up before my uncle and dressed in the pink and pearl suit that my mother had bought and laid out for her the night before. She even tried to put on the hat with her own two twigs for arms strength.
But that was three weeks ago. Today, thanks to technology, I was 5000 miles away and right there in that room with my family. When we left, her heart monitor was still going, but there was no recognition of the matriarch. She was the head, the spine, the backside, the fingers and the feet of the family. We were planets revolving around our sun and now, our universe is dispersing because our gravity is losing her clutch.
I was supposed to write something else for Day 8 of Desperate Prepping, but as my mom’s phone was perched on a shelf so I could “be there” with everyone else, decided to write what I saw.
I’m lucky to be a writer, because at least I have the chance to make up my own endings. Even if they’re a complete work of fiction.
I’m begging that this this one ends up being true.
Day 8 – October 19: Modified.
The room was icy and filled with the sadness of the family as they watched the woman in the bed gasp for breath. Each time she opened her puppet mouth like chomping, another sharp and desperate bubble of air plunged into her lungs.
Josephine looked at the hollow body on the bed and didn’t feel like weeping. She knew it was her own skeletal face that she was looking down on, but when she reached up to touch her face, the cheeks there felt full and plush. Her fingers were no longer gnarled and twisted but thin and graceful again. She remembered years ago when her fingers were this willowy like the youthful branches of the orange trees in her father’s ranch. They reminded her of the thick needles on the cactus at her Tia’s home in the desert.
A machine beeped rhythmically in the otherwise silent room.
She watched as her daughter, who sat sadly at her side, grabbed her hand and begged her mother to squeeze it. With large white tears running down her face, the daughter pleaded in Spanish, just one squeeze, to show that she can hear them.
Josephine stayed in the corner even though she wanted to touch her daughter’s shoulder. If her weak little skeleton body wouldn’t squeeze the hand of her only daughter, she wanted to do it while standing above her in whatever body it was that she was currently inhabiting
She watched her granddaughter, the youngest one in the family, with a heavy arm reach across the bed and touch her mother’s shoulder, just like Josephine wanted to do herself.
She again reveled at how much her granddaughter resembled her mother.
Josephine looked around the room and saw her sons, their heads low and their tears just barely standing behind their eyes. She saw her two grandsons with their hands in their pockets, their mother, her daughter’s husband, and one of the sweet Carmelite sisters, all speaking to God quietly within their hearts.
Her gaze moved back to her own body and startled. She saw that her own black, listless eyes were open wide, staring straight ahead behind her daughter and off near the door. Josephine turned her body to get a look at who was there and felt a sensational glow warm the chilled parts of her nose and cheeks.
A young woman, with black hair in curls and a smart salmon dress that dangled slightly past her knees stood in the doorway. Her smile was brilliant and her eyes were bright with recognition.
“Tachita,” Josephine gasped and moved to fall into the arms of her sister.
She embraced her tightly and rested her head on her shoulder, smelling their kitchen in her hair. But it wasn’t the sterile, air-conditioned, electric stove top of the tiny kitchen in Chicago, but the hot sun on the stones, tortillas on the griddle, clay pot of roasted tomatillos in the oven smell of Mexico.
The younger woman in pink smiled so brightly, Josephine had to look away briefly in fear that she would melt. Her eyes turned back to her family who where watching the machine beep slowly and rhythmically.
Her daughter began to sing quietly into the old hand that was clenched in hers. It was the song Josephine had sung to every single person in that room when they were sick, when they were hurt, when they were lonely, and when they were broken. She listened and her heart surged with joy.
…Dame un abrazo
Que yo te pido.
Josephine felt a hand move deftly into her own and the soft grasp of her sister tugged her attention away from the children who were singing.
Si fueran falsos
en un momento
For the first time since the death of her sister, her legs moved naturally. She forgot how she was struck with so much grief that her legs refused to hold her anymore in protest of her heart being so broken. But now, Tachita was there again and both of their legs were like the ones of the young women who ran through fields of wheat to jump over the creek and tease the boys who watched over the cows. They were the strong and sturdy legs of the women who tread through the blistering winters of the city with children and groceries in their arms.
Toca la marcha,
mi pecho llora,
que ya me voy…
She looked back at her children one last time and told them not to worry anymore because she was with Tachita now. The beeping and the voices faded away as the warm air of the kitchen in Mexico washed over her, knocking the curls around her neck back to furl around her head like a halo. She laughed as the wind moved through her.
que ya me voy.
Update: She passed.