I am moving up in line.
I remember when I was a young teen and we went to visit my maternal great-grandmother in a nursing home. She loved it there. She said she had friends galore and that some man had told her she had “nice legs.” I liked her waist-length hair: The bottom half was coal-black and the roots to shoulder were white, then gray.
She passed away and I didn’t really notice very much.
My maternal grandmother died of lung cancer and also had Alzheimer’s. I knew her much better than my great-grandmother, though I had not seen her more than once or twice a year throughout my life. I didn’t see her toward the end when her mind raced with confused thoughts. I prefer to think of the happier times – the Thanksgiving dinners and her laughter. She was the one I talked to about Rick, my future husband, being “the one”.
She passed away and it hurt.
I have been very close to my mother-in-law, Sylvia – yes, my mother-in-law and my mother are both named Sylvia – since I met her two weeks before my wedding. She had three sons. Rick, the middle child, was the first to marry. He sprang the news to his parents in May and we were married in July. I was immediately welcomed, the first Anglo, into a family of Cuban heritage.
Last week I visited Sylvia in a nursing home where she’s been for the past month. She did really well for about ten years after the removal of a brain tumor that was supposed to have been terminal, and had led an active life. But the last three years have been rough, with one health problem after another. Most likely it is the gradual degradation of the brain following the radiation therapy. What bought ten years, is now grimly requiring its pound of flesh.
She sometimes says a coherent, clear sentence, but mostly doesn’t speak. She cries almost constantly and tries to say that she wants to die. She can’t walk or feed herself. It is hard to know what she understands, because so often she appears to be present in body only. I visited nearly every day last week when we were in Tampa.
I talked to her about her grandchildren, fun times, and then about heaven and Jesus. I prayed with her. I hugged her. I held her hand. I gave her sips of water. She was calmer and didn’t cry so much.
I understand something very clearly: I will love what is left of her. I will love what is left until there is nothing left. I will love her until there is nothing left of me – until it is my turn to move up in the line of life.