Tonight was the first time I visited my Oma in hospice. It’s been a long, painful journey since her strokes in April 2016, and now the end is near. The end of this wonderful, brilliant, kind-hearted, courageous, beautiful woman who enriched us all. As she laid there, I could see her continue to fight. She was fighting to signal she could hear me. Whether it was the way she raised her arm, twitched her leg, slightly opened her eyes or applied pressure to my hand.
I’ve never lost a family member I was exceptionally close to and I’d never spent time in a hospice house. I can see why a lot of people spend their last days here – it’s safe. I felt comfortable crying because I knew everyone there felt heartbroken, too. Losing someone you love is the hardest thing you’ll face because all you can think about is how you’ll live without them. Life will never be the same again, but a small part hopes that things will eventually get easier.
Tonight as I was sitting next to her bed, holding her hand and choking back tears, I told her what was in my heart. I thought about the milestones she’d been there for graduations, birthdays, accomplishments, plays. Then I thought about future milestones like landing my first job, getting married and 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 she was listening.
My boyfriend recently told me about a homily he heard at Mass. He said it stuck with him over the years because of its powerful message: life is like a river. Life’s river flows, changes and adapts to its surroundings, but it never flows backward. Sometimes it flows smoothly and other times the water is choppy because of jagged rocks. The point is, 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, rivers do not stop after a waterfall. Rivers pool up at the base and start flowing again. When I heard this analogy, I compared the waterfall to my Oma’s death. Even when her river goes over that waterfall and her life ends, there will be a whole new life waiting for her at the bottom.