It’s been about three years ago that Helen Harris, my invincible but at the same time very human great-grandmother, passed away. I find that even as I try to rekindle memories of her worn but yet joyful face, talking and laughing with me, I am found with a somewhat empty memory. My mom always told me to make sure that I made the most of the time that great-grandma was around, because you know, she wouldn’t be around forever. No way, I thought. She would be around at least through my high school graduation, probably even through my college graduation. She would definitely live up into her nineties.
But there she lay, in her very own living room, in a large cherry wood coffin, dressed in her Sunday best, a dark gray jacket and skirt. Her white hair was curled up the way she always liked it, and she looked just like she always did, all except one thing. Her big ear to ear grin wasn’t showing like it always did whenever she saw us coming down the gravel driveway. She looked just as though she was asleep, and, as if by instinct, I reach for her hand and was about to say “wake up grandma.” But her hand wasn’t eager to return my embrace like it always had before. No, to my almost unbearable surprise, her hand was cold.
I let my hand fall as I turned from her, no longer able to hold back my so well concealed emotions up to this point, as my mother, who was also showing likewise emotions, tried to comfort me. “It’s okay”, she said between sobs. “She’s not suffering anymore.”
I couldn’t come to understanding that she was actually gone. Even though I had known for a number of days that she had passed on, I hadn’t with my own eyes confirmed that her body was no longer living. She seemed like she would always be there, always ready to talk to. I didn’t always take a lot of time to spend with her, often skipping time with her to do other things of my own interest.
Even though I was a somewhat shy, untalented and immature teenager going through the most transitional time of my life, she often took the time to tell me that she knew that I was going to do big things in my life, and she wasn’t ever ashamed to let others know as well. I vividly remember one instance when she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “Actually, I don’t really know”, I casually replied, “I haven’t given it much thought.” “Well, I just wanted to know”, she said with a small smile, “because I probably won’t be here to see it.”
This I believe, that we shouldn’t ever take anyone for granted, young or old, because you just never know just how much longer they will be around.
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