Love, Loss, and Saying Goodbye

Life is so fragile. Most of the time, we go through our day to day life in a rush, never slowing down to just be. Just enjoy this thing called life. Losing someone you love really makes you slow down and remember what is important in the world. I try to be mindful, to be present in the moment, but too often I get bogged down in worries that just aren’t important. It’s times like this that remind us to be present, every moment.
It’s been a tough few weeks for our family. Just a few days shy of the end of October, we got the news that my grandmother’s brother had advanced bone cancer. The universe works in amazing ways, and it just so happened I was already headed south for a visit. Our family has always been a close knit one, so there was no two ways about it. The minute I hit the ground in Charlotte, we headed for my grandmother’s house, then drove to Florida. The first day was spent chatting and hugging, and listen to Nanny and Uncle JM talk about their childhood. We made it just in time for that blessing of a day, because that was the last day he was really able to interact with us. The rest of our visit was spent enjoying our family and just being with Uncle JM.

I had never really been in this situation before. When my mom passed, it was sudden and I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. I was far too young to remember much of the process when my grandfather passed away. The hospice that was helping had the most beautiful, comforting pamphlet about the process. It really did help a lot. I took it to heart and, when we had to say goodbye and return to South Carolina, I made sure I  helped my grandmother understand that it was OK. It was OK to cry, OK to tell him you will miss him, and OK to tell him you’ll be just fine. It took us four or five trips in and out of his room…Nanny just couldn’t bare to let him hear her tears, but the moments I was blessed enough to share with the two of them were beautiful. She stroked his forehead, held his hand in hers, and told him she loved him, that her world was a beautiful place because of him, and that she wanted him to give Dana (my mom) a hug for her. That was about all she could manage before she just couldn’t say anymore. All the while, I could tell he could feel her there, tell he wanted to say something. I had a moment alone and I made sure to tell him what I knew he wanted to hear, but Nanny just couldn’t find words for. I told him I was going to take good care of Nanny. That she was in good hands and that we’d miss him so much, but that we would be OK. I felt the peace that gave him, and being in that moment was beautiful.
I returned home, and I got the call the next day that he had passed. I can’t tell you how thankful I was for the moments I shared, then and through my life, with him and the rest of my family. I can’t stop thinking of the wonderful times.

I remember being a very young child and thinking my Uncle JM was just the tallest man I’d ever seen! I loved our visits to Florida…he would hoist me or my sister up on his mighty shoulders and we’d head out to his back yard to pick oranges until we couldn’t hold them all. Later, when I was older, I saw him as the best example of a husband and father anyone could ask for. The love and tenderness he never ceased to show made him a ray of sunshine to everyone that knew him.

I guess the thing I am most thankful for is that I had the chance to say goodbye. I am so thankful that life constantly reminds me to cherish ever moment I have with those I love. Though I have tears rolling down my face as I type, they are a mix of sad and happy tears. Sad because I miss him, but so happy that I had him for a little while, and that he made this world a better place just by being in it.

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