We were getting ready for work and daycare this morning when our phone rang. It was 6:32 am. I said hello and heard my dad’s voice. “Sorry to call so early, but we have some news. Your grandmother (on my mother’s side) passed away around 2:30 am.” Tears started to run down my checks as my husband and two children looked on helplessly, wondering what was wrong. My husband quickly figured out what had happened, but my soon to be four year-old was still in the dark, finishing his Nutra-Grain cereal bar and apple juice.
My grandmother’s courageous battle with Alzheimer’s had ended peacefully at 2:30 am this morning. While there is comfort in knowing her suffering has stopped, there is still a sense of sadness. I truly feel older today. It is as if the magical part of my childhood has disappeared.
I hung up the phone with my dad and promised to check-in later so we could book flights home for the wake and funeral. Tyler wanted to know what was wrong. I looked at Todd and wondered how I was going to explain this to him?
Tyler doesn’t remember meeting my grandmother (we live 800 miles away from most of our family). I took him to visit her in the nursing home when he was three months old. She still remembered me then, but didn’t recall that I was married and had a baby. That didn’t stop her from holding Tyler, cuddling with him and telling him what a nice baby he was. In fact, she was delighted by the fact that she had another great grandchild. I stood by dutifully taking pictures so that my son would be reminded of the day he met my grandmother – a woman who has had a great influence on my life.
I stood my son, still wearing his Lightening McQueen pajamas, on my bed so we could be eye to eye. I hugged him and said, “You know how you have a grandma?” He said, “yeah?” I put my hand to my heart and said, “Well, I have a grandma too.” I took a deep breath, looked at Todd for reassurance and continued. “Today my grandma became an angel. She went up to the clouds and is living with Jesus in heaven” He looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes and the innocence I love and said,” Does this mean she is bowling with the other angels when it thunders?” I convinced myself to keep it together for a few more minutes. “Yes, she will be bowling when it thunders.” His next question, “Can she see me?” That one was easy. “Yes, she is looking at us right now and is smiling.”
As we walked down the stairs, hand-in-hand, Tyler asked if he could see a picture of her. I grabbed the scrapbook I made for him, documenting his first year and quickly turned to the page with the picture of my smiling grand ma holding my smiling baby. His eyes grew brighter as he touched the picture. Then he looked up at me and said, “Is that my angel?” I let out a muffled “yes,” and tried to compose myself. I was starting to realize that he was really going to know my grandmother, just in a different way then I knew her.
My sadness was lessening a bit. “Are you going to be okay Mommy?” My answer was easy, “I will be okay now.”
Jennifer Howe lives in Huntersville, NC with her husband, Todd, and two children, Tyler (3 ½ ) and Molly (6 months). She is a member of LakeNormanMommies and is the Director of Communications at a local independent school in Charlotte, NC.
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