Monday, December 05, 2016


I have been battling grief and guilt over the death of my Nana, which will be 20 years this coming February of 2017.

Nana's death was an absolute traumatic shock to me and I did not handle her sickness or her death well. I buried my head and did not take the time to talk with Nana much during her sickness, nor was I there with her when she died.

I have always felt guilty that I didn't do enough to show my Nana how much I loved her and how much she meant to me and for 20 years I've been carrying that guilt that has built an armor around my memories of my Nana.

I could not remove myself from the last time I saw my Nana, which was in a nursing home and there were three events within the nursing home that I visually have been playing over and over in my head.

Picture an empty theater, a large theater, think 3,500 seats or so with balconies and red chairs. The stage shows shadowy figures in three different locations. But they are not moving, they are static figures, as you would see in a mock-up model of a staged play.

There is a long hallway running between stage left and stage right. In the middle of the long hallway is another hallway that leads to the outside, or to the stage back. Left of that hallway is the room my Nana is in, in the nursing home. To enter my Nana's room you have to walk in the hallway towards stage left and enter the first door (which would be on your right if you were walking in the hallway).

On the stage there is no roof or ceiling and the walls are visible but you can see through them, more or less.

There is a figure of one person standing in the middle hallway leading to stage back. Then there are four figures standing outside the door to my Nana's room and then there are six people inside my Nana's room, including my Nana who is lying in bed, in the final days of her life. She is aware of our presence but cannot speak.

The lone person in the hallway leading stage back is me. The four outside my Nana's door are my parents, my sister, and me. My mother is telling my father that this is it. My sister is annoyed that my mother is telling my father this. I am not saying a word as I am numb that the time has come for my Nana to die. The people in the room are the four of us, plus my Nana in her bed, and my older brother.

My father is sitting in a chair on the right side of my Nana's bed and I am on the left, also sitting in a chair. I am holding my Nana's hand. I believe my father is, as well.

As I was leaving, my Nana grasped my hand and I pulled it away. For 20 years I thought she was telling me not to leave but recently I realized she was saying goodbye.

This is the scene I have had in my head for 20 years. I wasn't able to get beyond this stage. I carried the guilt of that time with me and I wasn't able to grieve her death. Part of me didn't want to let go of that moment because as awful as it was, it was also very precious because it was the last time I saw my beloved Nana and I think I felt, in some way, that if I got past that moment I was disrespecting her or that I was truly letting her go, I was letting her die, and maybe that meant I didn't love her.

Recently during one of my weekly therapy sessions I was finally able to take that scene and with the help of my Nana's voice in my mind and in my heart, the entire family and I were able to leave the nursing home, and we were outside and we were able to watch my Nana float into the sky and continue on her journey. And finally, I was able to look beyond the nursing home, remembering fond memories of growing up with the most loving person anyone could imagine.

I finally understand the phrase "undying love". After all this time and through 20 years of anguish my Nana told me everything was all right and that she still loves me.

Now it's time for me to start that process of saying goodbye properly, truly knowing what I have and have not lost from her death. The grieving process has finally begun.

1 comment:

Brittany Walker said...

Thanks for sharing, Ernie. Love you!