I had prepared for this call for many years. It was always there, waiting. I could not tell if it was a mere glimmer or flashing beacon. I played the call in my mind and imagined how I'd react. Wracked with an enormous sadness but also some sense of relief. And that's exactly how it happened.
Over the years, my grandmother had many close calls. Falls, hip surgery, pneumonia. She had been in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. On Thanksgiving Day 2012, she fell one final time in her own apartment. The catalyst to prompt me to admit her to a facility that would not only monitor her movements, but encourage her to get out of bed and be social. Not much persuasion was necessary, as she made several friends in her new home, always introducing someone new when I visited.
This past October, Theresa celebrated her 101st birthday. Another close call a day later when her blood pressure spiked and she had suspicion of sepsis. I spent a Saturday evening in the ER with her. She was scared. So was I. Was this it? But as many times previously, she beat the illness and returned to her life. She was amazing. A sweetness and strength unmatched.
Last night, the call finally came. She had been feeling weak and not eating as much the last few days. My wife and I visited her this past Saturday, bringing early Christmas presents (a scarf and a sweater, in her beloved pink). She was crazily affectionate as always. It would be the last time I would see the light in her eyes and hear her voice.
I went to the facility after the call and went to say goodbye. She had her head to the left, and her right eye and mouth were open. She was still warm. It was unbearably sad. I haven't broken down that hard in a long while. I really fell apart when I eased the sheet down to see her hand, upon it a ring that spelled out "I Love You." Like she was conveying this one final time. I said it back to her.
There is more to say. For now I wanted to get these words down, to let my invisible audience know. In the coming weeks there will be a memorial service, and visits to family, hopefully including my grandmother's sister, a tower of strength herself.