• elizabeth bartasius

The Gift Grandmother Gave Me When She Died

Days before my grandmother died, she lingered in a coma, eyes no longer open, wearing the Joan Collins-like wig I’d seen her in everyday of my life.

Me, the cousins, my brother, my father hung close to her bedside like bats waiting for the transition into darkness.

My dad and I vacuumed her house as she would have like.

On her driveway, I drew a chalk painting of her ascending into the clouds, dancing with my grandfather.

My cousins and I showed her a picture of Pop-Pop and her at their 50th wedding anniversary; she exhaled a huff of air.

Was she calling out to him, her husband already waiting where she’d soon go? Or was she ordering him around?

Cousin Laura, reminded her how much Pop-Pop loved her.

Son, Joe Sr. reminded her over and over how much he loved his mamma.

Grandson Joey told her stories of digging out golfballs from the canal bed behind her house.

I let her know her house was clean; she had nothing to worry about.

That I loved it when she'd sneak me mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

That her daughters were no longer bickering, but cooperating, even laughing together.

That she didn't have to stay for all of us. She was free to go when she was ready.

I expected another huff of air, hoped for one last look into her eyes.

But her next response was death.

In the moment my grandmother passed, I held her arm.

I listened to her quiet last breath as it left, never to return.

I cried.

My father cried.

My brother sat uncomfortable on the edge of her bed, but solid. With us.

When they carried her coffin to the burial while everyone still living walked alongside, telling stories, weeping, laughing, staring, I was not only present to the loss and mourning in front of me, but to a whole lifetime of human emotions, experiences, joy and love.

Death was simply one moment in a life filled with millions of moments.

I am forever grateful to call her grandmother; she’d given breath to so many.

I am forever grateful she allowed me a glimpse of her transition from earth.

It is a sweet gift to have born witness to all the alive moments and the peace of her passing.