Tuesday, November 13, 2012
This morning as I drove into work, Nelle sat strapped into her flowery, big-girl car seat talking to Grammy and Grandpa.
In her heart.
They've both died in recent years; Grandpa two years ago now ... a progressive and confused slide into darkness. I fear Nelle hardly remembers him now, the hours spent cuddling his bony figure on that oversized leather armchair. But she still talks to him.
When Grandpa was dying, I did my research. I wanted Nelle to feel the pain of his death, but in a way she could understand, deal with; I wanted her to feel close to him, even when his body lay under shovelfuls of suburban soil. So death, as we explained it, is when someone leaves their body - a body that's old or sick or badly hurt, that doesn't work anymore - and goes into the hearts of everyone who's loved them. We all get a piece of soul, to carry with us.
A final gift.
She was just 3, almost 3, when he left us. In death, he lay on a hospital bed - freshly made, for his passing. She wanted to see him, see his body. She brought a picture she drew and we tucked it under his cool, spindly fingers and he carried it with him. I'll never forget those moments of courage and compassion and sadness.
We had another year and a half with Grammy. We took no moments for granted; we knew when it was happening, when those terrible irreverent cells overcame her. We weren't to make the same mistake again - she knew she was leaving; we knew she was leaving; we said our goodbyes. But, her leaving was a gouge that hasn't healed yet - I don't know if I even want it to.
The drive this morning reminded me of remembering. How do we hold on and let go? Do I just keep picking open the hole in my chest, to avoid forgetting? To help my daughter remember? Or is it inevitable ... that one day, Grammy'll just be photographs and misremembered moments? I don't want that. For her, for him, for me.
Maybe that's what this is all about. Me. Knowing that one day, I'll die, too ... and fly quietly into the hearts of the people who've loved me ... to be remembered through photos and blog posts and newspaper clippings ...
Nelle sat behind me as the freeway slid by, talking quietly to Grammy and Grandpa in her heart, wishing every moment they were there in the flesh to read her stories and cuddle with her and play made-up games and feeling sadness that's both good and bad, and inexplicable. And I thought about my life and hers and hoped I was doing this right. All of it.
I want to hold my baby girl in my arms forever.