Tonight was the first time I visited my Oma (read as grandma) since she arrived at the Olathe Hospice House yesterday afternoon. It’s been a long, painful journey since her strokes in April 2016, and now we are nearing the end. The end of the life of this wonderful, brilliant, kind-hearted, courageous, beautiful woman who enriched us with her unconditional love. Seeing her resting peacefully as her body continues to wither away is heart-wrenching, and yet as I sat next to her I could see her continue to fight. She was fighting to signal she could hear me and fighting to show me that she loved me and would miss me too. Whether it be in the way she raised her arm, twitched her leg, slightly opened her eyes or applied pressure to my hand – I knew she could hear me.
This is the first time I’ve lost a family member I was extremely close with, and it’s also my first time in a hospice house. I can see why this is where many people spend their last days on Earth: the feeling of consolation is undeniable. I felt comfortable unloading the waterworks because I knew everyone around me felt the same way I did: heartbroken. Losing someone you love is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to face because all you can think about is how you will proceed without them. It’s difficult when you come to the realization that life won’t ever be the same again, but a small part of you hopes that over time things might become easier and you’ll gain some well-needed peace.
Tonight as I was sitting next to her bed, holding her hand and choking back tears as I told her the contents of my heart, I thought about all the milestones she’s been present for: graduations, birthdays, boyfriends, accomplishments, plays… and then I thought about all the milestones yet to come like landing my first job, getting married, having children. She won’t be here to celebrate with me, tell me I look beautiful in my dress or hold her first great-grandchild.
It was then that I said to her, “I know you won’t physically be here, but I know you’ll have a front-row seat in Heaven where you can cheer me on like you’ve been doing for me my entire life.”
Then she pushed back on my hand, and I knew that was her sign that she was listening and agreeing with me.
My boyfriend recently told me about a homily he once heard at a Catholic Mass. He said it stuck with him over the years because of the powerful message it contained: life is like a river. Life’s river constantly flows, changes and adapts to its surroundings, but it never flows backwards. Sometimes it flows smoothly beneath clear, blue skies, while other times it’s filled with jagged, sharp rocks and violent rapids. The main point is that however many years we have to flow on this Earth, we’ll all go over a waterfall at some point. It’s crucial to remember, however, that rivers do not stop after a waterfall. They pool up at the base and begin flowing again. When I heard this analogy, I compared the waterfall to my Oma’s death. Even when her river goes over that inevitable waterfall and her earthly life ends, there will be a whole new life waiting for her at the bottom.