June 11, 2015

To Sit with Death.


I had promised you that I wouldn’t ever fear when death came, and just like you had sat with me countless times as a child casting stones into the ocean, so I had decided I would sit with you.

It doesn’t matter that you long ago forgot that I was your Kasha, nor does it matter that you haven’t opened your eyes in days.

I still am choosing to sit here with you, and be a witness to your death—because of how much you have loved me in life.

I am so much of who I am today because of you. Your gentle hand at loving life and the way your delicious cooking would fill the kitchen and our hearts. The love of the ocean that you inspired in me, and the words of advice you would give me over potato chips and chocolate milk—none of it will ever be forgotten.

I am your granddaughter, and that is a fact that not even Alzheimer’s or death can change.

I have been losing you in bits and pieces for as long as I can remember.

Even though your body was so small in size, your heart has always been so great. I can only hope that I keep my heart as open and loving as you did, despite everything.

I’ll never forget the day I spent with you in the hospital painting your nails and talking with you. You had told me to not be afraid to let myself fall into deep, real love, but to always take my head with me.

Others often thought you were scattered or didn’t know what you were talking about—but we both knew better.

I have countless memories of you and me painting seashells, and gardening in your backyard. It was there trampling over the soft green grass and nibbling on parsley that my dreams were first born.

As a child I used to love going into your room and opening up your ancient jewelry box that always seemed so magical and playing pretend with the jewels that it held.

I remember you sitting with the afternoon sun in your hair telling me stories of your father, how he was a gypsy in Eastern Europe and how they travelled here through Ellis Island. You used to laugh as you said your mother used to holler at him and chase him off of the front steps when he would tell the neighbor’s fortunes.

It was you who unknowingly passed down the gift of magic to me –it is the lure of the gypsy spirit that dances underneath my skin, and through my dreams.

We always had a special connection, just you and I. Sometimes others would be envious of the world that we created, and how we seemed to understand one another without words.

And so here I sit, lying against you on your small hospital bed, for I’ve never been one to be fearful of life, especially of the darkness that it possesses.

I watch you breathe heavily in and out, and the way your body trembles in the deep sleep that has now taken over.

I rub my hand over your hip bones that are present even underneath the blanket, and I wish for you to be at peace. You’ve been between worlds for a while now; the haze of Alzheimer’s growing heavy along your memory.

You haven’t been out of bed for days, and I can see that you are getting weaker with each breath. The nurses said today that it looks like you’re in pain, so they plan on starting morphine tonight to help bring your physical body some comfort.

And so I sit, not as much as a witness to your death, but as a witness to your life.

You don’t really know that I am here, but I can sense your soul knows I am. You are waiting to leave us, and while most are waiting for the proper time to mourn you, I don’t plan on doing that at all.

On the day that others are wearing black and crying, mourning you the way that this culture is told it is supposed to, I don’t plan on joining them, because I know that your spirit won’t be there.

Instead, I plan on spending the day at the shore with my girls teaching them the joy of jumping into the cold surf, how to fish for crabs and how cheese danish from the little Polish bakery in town really can cure any ailment.

You may pass from this earth, but your memory will live on the lips of my daughters, and in the magic in their hearts.

For now though, I merely sit: with death, with life and all the spaces of love in between, because I am simply here, and sometimes that really is enough.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn how to swim.” ~ Vicki Harrison



What our Grandparents Knew.


Author: Kate Rose

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s Own

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