But what she had said wasn’t nearly as heartbreaking as the end of the sentence she’d left unspoken: “…but I don’t think I will be.”
It was late summer, and Mom was ostensibly in the nursing home recuperating from complications after hip replacement and dealing with multiple other health concerns. Because when you’re Irish, the way you talk about uncomfortable subjects is, well, not to. But we all – including Mom – knew that even if none of us could use the word “dying,” she wasn’t going to get better, and it was just a matter of time.
Mom’s honest statement took me by surprise, and before I knew it I was blurting out one of my own.
“Well, Mom, that’s some great motivation for you,” I said. “A lot of people hang on to meet somebody. Maybe you will, too.”
“Yes, maybe I will,” she replied softly, looking back at the picture. “Maybe I will.”
Summer gave way to fall and winter, and we all were grateful for one more Christmas together. It was an interesting juxtaposition, watching Mom decline as her granddaughter’s belly grew. Finally, on January 31 and right on time, Liam arrived. The first person I called was Mom.
A couple of weeks later, we were making the hour-long drive to my parents’ house, where Mom had progressed to in-home palliative care. Now an expert at bringing up awkward topics, I turned to my daughter in the back seat.
“You know how Grandma seemed to will herself to hang on until Liam was born?” I asked Becky.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Well, sometimes, when people meet the person they have been waiting for, it’s not long afterward that they die.”
Becky was quiet for a long moment, considering my observation.
“You mean by visiting we’re killing Grandma?” she asked.
Out of the mouth of (my) babe!
Mom was blessed with a wonderfully lucid day to meet her great grandson, and was even strong enough to sit up and hold him for a picture, the only one of the two of them we have.
She died a few weeks later, and I need only look at my seven-year-old grandson to know how much, and how quickly, time has passed.
Just as that one picture will never make Liam remember his great grandmother, it will never let me forget that this sleeping infant in her arms gave us all the gift of an extra few months together.
The above reflection was my entry in the 2018 Erma Bombeck Writing Competition, Global Human Interest Category.