I love my granny very much. She has a profound impact on my life and who I am. If you have been keeping up with this blog: you know she helped me process understanding I’m different, and how to cope with my condition. What you don’t know, unless you know me outside of blogging, is she got diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was six. At six: mama explained it simply and gently. She got progressively worse. At age 8: most of my blood family gathered in very South Georgia to clean out her house. Her farm and the pink house where so many happy, joyful, memories took place had to be sold.
She was going to live in Mississippi where my aunt and uncle lived. Over the next seven years: when my parents and I’d go to visit sometimes she’d have good days and others not at all. I did the one thing I knew might make her and myself feel better during those visits: sing. Sometimes, it worked, and she’d remember, and we’d sing together like we had so many times. Other times, I’d sing alone believing in the incredible power of music to soothe.
The summer I was 15: when we got to granny’s room, at the nursing home, I realized something was different. I felt my gift of knowing kick in. This was the second time I knew Heavenly transition was near for someone I loved fiercely. Instantly, I knew it wouldn’t be long.
No one, except my brother and journey partner, knows what happened next. I knew I needed to talk to her alone. When mama, dad, and my aunts left me with her for a few minutes to deal with things that needed to be dealt with for her: I took her hand and started talking. I said, Gran, I know. I know you’re tired of fighting this disease, too. I know you want to be with Granddaddy Earl and all the others you miss. I know you would worry about me most if you could. I’m the baby of your grandchildren. You call me sugar foot. I’m sorry I never asked you why. I want you to listen closely: I love you so much. You are the best granny any of us can have. I’ll carry all your memories with me…always. I’ll remember all your advice and wisdom about how to live a faith-filled life. I’ll be okay. I promise; I will. You and Granddaddy Kirk gave me everything I need to be okay. Tell him hi, for me, and give him a big hug, okay? It’s okay to let go when you need to, alright? I love you and I promise I’ll be okay. Then I sang her a song about dealing with death. Everybody came back in the room, afterwards, but I kept holding her hand.
After we left her for the day: dad asked me why I was quiet, in the line at Wal-Mart, when it was just us. I told him it wouldn’t be long. I think he thought it was my overactive imagination. I knew better. When we got home: I needed to start processing my grief. I needed to talk to her some more. I wrote in my computerized journal. Think Doogie Houser for a visual. What came out of that writing session was a poem titled “My Angel.” I printed a copy and put it in my writing binder. I put away the binder and went back to being a teenager.
A few months later, weeks after turning 16, mama got the call I knew was coming. It was early morning and I had school. She didn’t tell me. She didn’t know I already knew from the conversation and her face. She didn’t know I knew months before she did. I thought I was prepared. That was a nice lie I told myself. Grief? It takes your breath away and brings you to your knees. It doesn’t care how prepared you think you are. It will show you differently.
I held it together until I got to school. I’ve never driven faster than I did to first period that day. I needed to see my very first chosen brother. He was there. It was just he and I. He knew something was very wrong by the way I was driving. Then he looked at my face, specifically my eyes, and said, “What’s wrong, Stace?” Looking at the brother I’d had since age 5: I could barely get words out. When I did: it was short answers. “Are you sure?” I gave him a look. “Okay, yeah, stupid question.”
He knew, I knew, she was healed and free, but I was gutted, raw, and emotional. He also knew he was the only one I’d cry in front of at that moment. He held me and let me. When Kirk went to Heaven: it was summer. I didn’t have to have my grief so profoundly on display. This time, here it was, everyone was going to see. I couldn’t have gotten through it without him by my side.
Today is the anniversary of her transition to Heaven. Every day I remember: the lessons, the advice, the coping mechanisms, the laughter, and the love she gave all of us…especially me. I hope she’s proud of all I am, will be, and the journey I’m on. I hope she takes a lot of credit. She deserves it. I wouldn’t know how to thrive, nearly as well, without her being an excellent example to follow.