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March 9, 2009

I can still remember the last time my grandma said my name.  She had a beautiful, musical voice and my named danced off her tongue as she greeted me.  She was walking through the kitchen toward the bathroom.  She smiled and lifted her hand with great effort to pat me on the head.  Somehow I knew it was the last time she would ever say my name.  It was also the last time I saw her standing.

Her health had declined drastically since I had last seen her the weekend before.  I was overcome with emotion.  My hand flew to my mouth to quiet the gut-wrenching sob that was about to escape.  My sister and cousin whisked me away to the small bedroom and offered me their shoulders.

reading with grandma

reading with grandma

Rose and Kayte had been with our grandparents most of the week to help care for Gram.  I had just started a new job and couldn’t take that much time off work.  The night before my arrival, I was on the phone with Rose and Kayte .  We cried for hours.  “You HAVE to be here,” they said.  They told me how hard it was to see Grandma slipping away.  “She needs you; Grandpa needs you; WE need you!”  They begged me to come.  I made up my mind to leave work early the next day.  My grandma was dying, and I had to be there.

I went to Kayte’s house first.  She and Rose had been given a mission for Gram, and I tagged along.  After we completed the mission, we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  That is when Gram said my name. “Cecilia! When did you get here?”  The effort to speak was obvious and it broke my heart.  She was a shadow of her usual vibrant, strong and joyful self.  Rose and Kate had been with her all week and had watched her decline, but the shock was too much for me.  They took me out of sight so I could cry, and as they held me, I thanked them for being so insistent that I come.  I needed to be there, not only for my grandparents and Rose and Kate, but for me.

That was Friday night.  On Saturday, the whole family came, each person having a chance to say good-bye.  When it was my turn, I sat alone by her bedside at a loss for words.  How do you say good-bye?  How do you express gratitude for a lifetime of lessons?  How do you convey a magnitude of love?  I had so much to say but could barely find words.  I shared with her the words to a song sung by Charlotte Church, words that floated through my head every time I thought about Grandma:

From My First Moment

From my first moment you gave me wings
Let me fly and believed in my dreams
From that first moment you cherished me so
The journey through life would be hard without you
You gave me all I have and all I know

From my first moment you would be there
In your arms lay the strength I now bear
From that first moment each day I have you
The seasons they change but your heart stays the same
You gave me all I have and all I know

From my first moment as time goes by
We drift endlessly through open skies
The journey through life would be hard without you
You gave me all I have and all I know

Transcribed by Douglas Blatherwick

Eventually I was able to say good-bye in my own words.  My beloved Grandma died early Sunday morning on March 9th.  We knew it was coming, but the reality of losing her was heart-wrenching.  Our family clung to each other over the next week, especially the Three Musketeers or the three oldest granddaughters as we are more commonly known.

As difficult as they were, Grandma’s last weeks of life were filled with beautiful moments.  I am grateful for the time I had with her, especially for those cherished memories of her saying hello and me saying good-bye.

our last thanksgiving with grandma

our last thanksgiving with grandma

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Cristin Luea permalink
    March 9, 2009 5:45 pm

    I love the photos!! What a lady!

  2. Lisa Koski Vander Ploeg permalink
    March 9, 2009 7:54 pm

    This is so well written and absolutely beautiful!

    The picture with your Grandma is wonderful to see. That’s how you all looked when I met you.


  3. Mary Vander Ploeg permalink
    March 10, 2009 11:17 pm

    What a wonderful rememberance! I came away feeling like I knew her personally.

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