Her last words will live forever with me.
The night before my grandmother died we said our last good-byes in hopes that she would rest in peace knowing that we loved her. I had known her for 35 years, and in those 35 years we had become extremely close. She was not only a grandmother to me but also a friend and a confidant. I feared the day that I would have to deal with the pain and the realization of losing her. Although I knew that day was coming, I didn’t want to let her go. She passed away almost ten years ago, in October, but it still feels like yesterday that I was standing over her deathbed and telling her that I loved her for the last time. I am just now coming to grips with the pain and loss I feel when I think of her.
My family and I were sitting down at home having dinner, and we received a phone call. My mother answered the phone. It was a nurse calling from “Saint Francis Medical Hospital”, where my grandmother was a patient in intensive care unit (ICU), also known as a critical care unit (CCU). The nurse said to my mother, “Fermina is not doing very well and she might not make it through the night. You and your family might want to come and say your “good-byes.” My mother’s tan face turned pale white, and tears began to fill her deep brown eyes. She looked as though someone had punched her in the gut, as a long tear came down her face and a look of fear and sadness had over taken her to a different world. After she got off the phone she was shaking like a naked child on a cold night. Through great gasps of breath she filled the family in on what was going on. My mother was very upset to drive so I had to drive to the hospital. We wanted to be by my grandmother side. In silence we reached our destination, and I was extremely hesitant to go in because I knew what I had to face. I was afraid of death, of losing my grandmother.
When I found enough courage to at least enter the hospital ICU unit, I felt emptiness inside of me that I had never felt before. I was cold and the halls were dark, almost like I had entered a dungeon. As we were walking, my family and I passed the nurse’s station. I could tell that they recognized who we were because the heavy-set one with red hair curled in a bun atop her head began to cry, and the other nurse that look thin as a noodle with brown hair even ran toward us and gave us hugs and her condolences . Trying to fight back the tears, the nurse said to me sadly, “Your Nana loves you very much; every time she sees you she gets a twinkle in her eyes.” As we embraced I began to think about all the times that I was with my Nana and how much fun we had. I began to cry. Sobbing, I realized that time was passing by and that I had not yet seen my grandma.
Not wanting to accept the fact that she was going to die, I reluctantly began to walk toward her room. My shoes made slight squeaking sounds, but all I could focus on were the rectangular square white ceiling tiles and the sadness in my heart. The hallway that led to her room was dark and dreary; it smelled slightly of urine. There was a slight draft, and I heard the other residents moaning for help. I was horrified—reliving that feeling I got the last time I was in a haunted house. It seemed like the hallway had gotten so much longer since the last time I had walked down it.
As I approached the thick, brown wood door, there was a blue and white nametag on it (about the size of a Pop Tart) that said “Fermina Pellot” in large, black block letters. I was not ready to go in and see my grandmother in her death bed. However, it was time to face the music; the moment in my life that I never wanted to happen was right before me. I chose to stay outside and get my composure. I watched my father and sobbing mother go in and say their good byes, and both come out with tears streaming down their faces. “Is she talking?” I asked. “Not a word,” cried my dad, his stern, olive face now broken red with sadness. It was my turn; the thought of not even going in crossed my mind, but I knew I would regret it. Hesitantly I took one step into her room, and I saw one of my most favorite people in the world laying in the bed on the left. She just lay there with her eyes softly closed in a state of tranquility. I smiled at her, and she did not respond; at that time a sense of loneliness overcame my body. Her complexion was transparent, her body skinny and fragile and her light pink mouth was gapping open. I walked closer to the bed and she began to breathe heavier and heavier. She could sense my presence. I reached for her hand, and it was ice cold.
It was difficult for me to see her like that. There was so much that I wanted to say, but the words caught on the lump in my throat. Forcing them, I spoke loudly in hopes that she would answer, “Hi, Nana; it’s me Luis. We just came to see you, and it looks like you’re not doing very well. I brought you your favorite drink, Coca Cola.” No words came from her mouth, not even a whisper. But she gave my hand a squeeze. I leaned over the rail on the bed and gave her a hug. I pushed back her spider-web-like hair with my mouth and whispered to her “When you leave you will be taking a big piece of my heart, but you will be leaving an even bigger piece of yours.” Having not said one word all night, she looked up at me and whispered loudly, “Mijo (son), I love you so much,” as a tear trickled down her face from her right eye. Then she returned to her comatose state. I wiped the tear off of her face and said, “I love you.”
Even though that was one of the worst feelings that I ever had, it was also a relief to know that she loved me. That night left me empty and sad, but when I woke up the next morning, I knew that she had passed, and I was okay with it because I knew that she was in a better place. Even though Nana is gone and it has almost been 10 years since her death, it is still hard to fathom the idea that she is no longer physically in my life. I miss her, but I know that she loves me because of her last words. She still lives on within me and her words carry enormous weight. More than we sometimes think. They often impact people for decades, providing the courage to press on or one more reason not to give up on life.