Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday Scribblings--Saying goodbye

I avoided this prompt because I couldn’t think of something happy to write on this theme. But sometimes the hard lessons are the best.
The most difficult farewell of my life was saying good-bye to my grandmother. My grandmother was only 40 years older than I am. If life had gone well for her she might still be with us. After all, many people make it to 85 these days. However, she died of breast cancer not long after I graduated from college.
I was very close to my grandmother. She was sane, nurturing, reliable and positive in a family which tends to lack those features. It didn’t hurt that she absolutely doted on me. I wrote my first letter to her and she kept it taped to her closet mirror for the rest of her life. She told me once she thought I would be famous and that my letters would amount to something.
In the course of my life I wrote many letters to my grandmother. Her cancer was diagnosed 5 years before she died. Those were hard years but her illness brought me closer to her. I spent half my senior year in college living and studying in Paris but I wrote to her nearly every week and phoned as often as I could afford. Knowing she was dying made me conscious of appreciating all my time with her in a way young people often neglect to do.
Grandma made it to my college graduation. She was weak and had trouble getting about but her joy in the event was so absolute. The funniest thing that happened was when she wandered through my university apartment and came out of the bathroom announcing that one of my roommates was “on the pill.” She seemed pleased, as if she had caught someone doing something naughty. I was surprised that that my roommate would leave her birth control lying around so I checked it out. “Sorry to disappoint you,” I told her. “That is Sudafed.” I don’t know why we both got such a kick out of this. I guess it was our way of crossing the generation gap.
That June I started medical school, so I didn’t see much of my grandmother. She became increasingly ill with painful bone metastases and diabetes (likely due to pancreatic mets). I visited her over my winter break that year. I don’t remember the details of our last days together but I think we both understood that it might be the last time we saw each other. When we said good-bye before I left for the airport we acted as if it was a normal leave-taking but we both knew it was probably for good.
About a month later I got the call that my grandmother had hemorrhaged and had died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Although I felt a profound sense of loss, and still do, I knew I had said my good-byes and that my grandmother knew how much I loved her. I was able to let her go with a sense of completeness. I wish she could have known my husband and my kids, but I know that what we had together was enough.

15 comments:

GeL(Emerald Eyes) said...

Sarala,
Poignant and hit so close to home, it's uncanny. I cried good tears reading your beautiful story about your close relationship. I was also very close my grandmother.
These lines could have been written by me: " She was sane, nurturing, reliable and positive in a family which tends to lack those features. It didn’t hurt that she absolutely doted on me."
I am glad/relieved that you and she had each other. I draw on the special love my own grandma and I shared for reasons like you wrote above.

I came very close to reposting "Stairway to Heaven" a piece I blogged about two years ago about my grandmother who also died of breast cancer while I was in college. Somehow I have a feeling they have met...Hugs to you.

tongue in cheek said...

Thank you for sharing on Sunday scribblings, good byes are not easy especially when they are good byes forever. i was close to my Grandmother too, so this post spoke to me of that good bye. I share your feelings!

paris parfait said...

Your lovely post brought tears to my eyes - for your sad loss and for my own loss of my grandmother, who was very special to me.She also died too young.

Kamsin said...

What a lovely tribute to your grandmother. May she rest in peace.

gautami tripathy said...

I remember my grandma too. I couldn't say goodbye to her. I miss her.

Betsy said...

That was a beautiful post! My own grandmother died 7 years ago and I still feel the loss very keenly. She was such a wonderful woman, and I am very sorry that she never got to meet my children!

What a gift that you got a chance to really say goodbye. I think that "sense of completeness" you mention is a rare and wonderful thing...

Barb T. said...

I'm glad you decided to go ahead and post this. What a sweet tribute to a wonderful person. How fortunate to have a grandparent with you into your adulthood; I had lost all of mine by the age of 8 so I only have faint memories. Thanks for your kind words on my SS as well. I have browsed a bit on your blog and see we have much in common; will be back to read more.

G said...

Beautiful, well-written post on your grandmother; it brought tears to my eyes. I love your last sentence, that what you had was enough. I wish I felt that way. Maybe I'll come to that eventually, I'm happy to hear that it's possible.

East of Oregon said...

Very beautiful post!

angela said...

Your grandmother would have liked this, i think, might even have taped it in her closet too.
How beautifully moving. It's sad she had to die but at least you had her...
Angela

Frances said...

Good grandmas are hard to come by my dear.
I miss mine too.
Thanks for the share.
Oh by the way - one of these days you'll be a sensational grandma.

Misplaced said...

I'm glad you posted this. It was beautiful and reminded me of my own grandmother's death while I was away at college. I love the story about the pill- That will stay with you forever.

Becca said...

Those of us who have had special relationships with our grandmothers are so lucky. I still miss mine, we lost her 15 years ago this Friday. I'm just hoping I get a chance to be a special grandmother to someone someday!

You've written a lovely tribute to yours, and I'm sure you brought her much joy.

meeyauw said...

Thank you for writing about your grandmother and her death. How I wish we could live without these huge pains. I want to believe that these experiences make us wiser, kinder and more spiritual but I would give that all up to live without the pain. You may have given me the courage to write about my husband's death.

sognatrice said...

There's just something about a grandmother's love. Mine passed just after I found out that I had passed the bar exam--I am convinced she waited until she was sure everything was proceeding well in my life. I've only had a blog for 2 months, and my grandmother has already made several appearances...that bond is just so special. Thanks for sharing :)