How to Say Goodbye


This weekend, we said goodbye to Grandma and conclude a 2-week ordeal of watching her slowly pass away.  I’ve never had to watch someone die.

About two weeks ago I went to visit her at hospice care. Something was so ominous about that visit. It was the last time I saw her alive. When I came into her room Uncle Tony was also there. She was between asleep and awake. Her food tray lay untouched. Uncle said that she hadn’t eaten all day. There were some days she’d want to eat, and others when she would. And I use the word ‘eat’ very loosely. If she wanted to, she’d eat some puree stuff or yogurt. Uncle and I tried to feed her but she took in very little of the vanilla puree. She’d keep her mouth shut and shake her head no.

On this day we had the opportunity for the two of us to sit, just grandmother and granddaughter. I was saying to her that it was ok for her to let go. I also told her I was sorry that I never got to write her story. I had always imagined that my great novel would revolve around her life. Many times I’ve thought to bring a voice recorder to visit her and ask her questions about her life, about what it was like to live life under Japanese invasion, life as a single mother and starting life again as an immigrant. I think I did it once but I remember it was very difficult because at that point she had trouble hearing me. I felt the guilt that all writers know- the guilt of the unwritten story. But this time my guilt felt doubly weary and heavy, thinking that I owed this story to grandma. I wept at her bedside, believing I had somehow failed her.

When she saw my tears, she frowned gravely and with great difficulty tried to pull her arms up and over the covers. At first I thought she was motioning that she wanted something. Grandma hadn’t been able to talk in awhile. I looked around to see what she could want and she instead grabbed my hand. I wept even more. I was there to comfort her, but little did I know that she was there to comfort me. I held her hand tight and it was still so warm. Her body was wasting away and she was refusing food, but there was still this fire of life in her. This little old lady wanted to be there in that moment to comfort her granddaughter who was weeping over her. I had to laugh out loud at the terrific irony. So I said, ok grandma I’m stopping, I’m stopping, as I wiped my tears away and managed a smiled. She smiled back. I remember thinking that I don’t remember the last time I held her hand.

I feel weary. Chin died not even 2 months ago and now grandma. My heart has felt so heavy. I find it hard to believe that the same God who bestows blessings, is the same one who takes away. One night, I remember asking David why I had to feel such sadness like this. He said, “You have family and friends…” And I wouldn’t have it any other way. To be blessed with family and friends means experiencing laughter, affection, and love. It also means knowing that one day you’ll have to let go and say goodbye. This year, God has taken two of my loved ones, but He also gave me David and He continues to shower His blessings on me. God’s also given me pen and paper to write.

One of the last things I told Grandma was that I would need her help in writing my story. I told her I wasn’t any good and I would need her to send whatever heavenly help she could.

In Grandma’s last moments I’m sure she was thinking about everything she hadn’t done and was maybe filled with a bit of regret. She’s not here now and I hope she’s made her peace with whatever was holding her down. She’s run out of time, but I haven’t. I have a story to write.

3 thoughts on “How to Say Goodbye

  1. It feels strange to ‘like’ this, but I can relate. I lost my dear grandmother a couple of months ago and I found the last few hours by her bedside to be such a sacred time. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. Pingback: 2013: Year in Review | To Begin Again

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