It was 20 years ago today that I watched my grandmother pass away from cancer right before my very eyes. She was 56 years old.
I was a 19 year old kid when she died, and for the first time, this year represents more than half my lifetime ago since she passed away. Yet, there is something about the spirit of this woman that I love to remember on this day.
My grandmother's name was Joan, but all of her grandchildren called her "Nanny." She had just turned 37 years old when I was born, so I was blessed with a very young grandmother.
Whenever someone dies, I feel that most people always eulogize them as a saint in their life, and I am not going to do that with my grandmother. She was a stubborn Irish-Catholic woman with many faults, but loving her family was never one of them. She was fiercely protective of her family, and was the nucleus of keeping us all together. She really was the tie that binds...
When my grandmother was sick in the summer of 1991, I was living with her. When we finally found out that she had terminal cancer, she had 10 weeks until the time she passed away. During those 10 weeks I was able to complete many things with my grandmother in her life, and mine. The only good thing about cancer is that it gives you some time to prepare yourself for the inevitable. We all know that we are going to die, yet these people have the gift of time so that they can complete their lives and prepare to leave this world.
I can say that my grandmother was complete when she left this world. I got to ask her many questions about her life and how it occurred for her, and how she was able to complete her life without bitterness, and free from resentment. This was amazing considering I would call her a bitter and resentful person while she was alive. I think many of you in your own lives can see a person who might fit that description, and how that dying gave them the opportunity to clean this up before moving on to the next life.
I could tell you many great things about my Nanny, yet I think the one that embodies her the most is the story of her daughter Diana. Diana spent 2 years inside various hospitals when she was in her early 20's due to a brain shunt. My grandmother was a single mom at the time with 5 kids, 3 of which were still living with her at the time. Nanny's routine was to work all day which involved shift work, and then head to the hospital to spend the time beside her daughter who was basically in a coma and unresponsive for 2 years. This is what my grandmother did, and the way of being she was for her children. It could've been any one of them, and this would've been consistent with how she supported them all. She was real, she was passionate, and she was loving above all else.
I sometimes wonder about my grandmother and how she would've aged. I wonder how she would've felt to see my daughter and hold her in her arms. I can see her smiling and grinning from ear to ear. I can see that because I know that she's still inside of me; still contributing in my life even those she's been gone from us for 20 years now.
What a legacy that is...
Not so long ago, I had a dream where I dreamt that Nanny came back to visit with me. It wasn't scary at all. In fact, it was the most amazing calming dream I have ever had. I got to spend 8 hours talking and loving her for all that she was in my life and then got to bring her up to speed of what was going on in my life since she died. It was simply wonderful. When I woke up, I felt that it was the greatest gift to me to have had her visit me and it left me with the most amazing feeling of being loved that I have ever felt, and I was so thankful for that "dream"
So today, on the 20th anniversary of your passing, I remember you Nanny, and all that you were and all that you contributed to my life, and the rest of our family who loved you so dearly. You are missed, you are loved, and most important, you are remembered in all of our lives.
I love you still...