Saying Goodbye

 

 

She turns her head slightly, smiles and grasps my mother's hand as my mom's words break through the hospice induced stupor and bring grandma back for a moment. The lyric, "love is watching someone die," waifs in my ear and I think that the greatest gift in giving that love is the simple moments the love briefly comes back to you

 

She lay there with her eyes closed, her cheeks were full like they had been in my youth. For the first time in years she looked like my grandmother.

 

She was the woman who had always known my heart better than I knew it myself, I ached for her to open her eyes and tell me the last eight years had been a dream.

 

She’d snaked her cold hand under my armpits to warm them up, while I would giggle as their icy touch shocked my system. “Cold hands, warm heart,” she’d joke.


As the alzheimer's ate her mind, her body had withered so that she barely resembled the tall statuesque woman she had been.


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The woman who carefully washed her perfect white hair in bluing shampoo, but rarely wore makeup. Who had gotten size A prosthetic breasts for her 5’9’ curvy frame and only wore them for special occasions. Who laughed with her family as one slipped down to her pants at a family reunion.

 

Long legs and big feet, bright brown eyes and full rosy cheeks, topped with a bob of white hair and a quick smile. That was my grandmother.

 

She claimed she wasn’t beautiful. She would say that until I, her kinko copy reminded her that if she thought I was beautiful than she needed to stop saying otherwise.

 

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We had a special connection due to that mirror like resemblance, I think I adored her just a little bit more because you could see that I was hers and she was mine.

 

So seeing her again, laying there in a room where you only go to say goodbye broke my heart more than I expect.

 

I'd known she was going to leave me soon, and I'd thought it would be easy because I had been saying goodbye to little parts of her for years.

 

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But as she lay there peacefully sleeping I thought back to when we were children and my sister and I would race up to my grandparents room to wake them up in the morning. We’d jump into their bed and snuggle in between laughing and cuddling. “Wake up! Wake up! It’s time to get up,” we’d say as we lept towards the warm middle spot in the bed.

 

“Wake up,” my heart cried, “wake up, it’s time to get up. I have so much to tell you, I have so much I want to share with you.”

 

I talked, I cuddled, I stroked her hands, I said my goodbyes, then I layed my head next to hers and I wept quietly in the dark.

 

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"When I was a child, I thought like a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face." I read quietly to my grandmother from the bible she walked down the aisle with to marry my grandfather, the same bible I carried when I married Bryan. 


Her brown eyes locked with mine and she struggled to speak. I told her that it was ok, I knew, that I've always known and there was nothing more she needed to say, I held her hands and read passages to her as those beloved brown eyes would flutter close then open again to try to express all the love I've always known is in her heart. I told her it was ok to let go, we'd be lost for awhile but she'd given us all we'd need to find our way again.

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A few hours later, I learned that she had taken her last breath.

 

I will miss her, my heart aches for one more moment, another, “you bet,” or “nello” another laugh... just one more hug.

However, when the world gets a little too hard, I can smile into the mirror and see her smiling back at me and know that her strength and love is with me from today on to forever.

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My grandmother's obituary.

Of all the facts and dates that define the life of a woman the most defining for Ardith Lee Hunt was she was loved — and she returned that love with fierce unwavering strength.

Born to John and Leona Hunt in Dayton, on Oct. 8, 1932, Ardith was the Hunt’s middle child, flanked by an older sister Joyce (died at the age of 4) and younger brother, Stephen Hunt of Tacoma.

She married the love of her life, Richard R. White, on Feb. 5, 1952. Their love was one of legends. It would be untrue to say they never fought or disagreed. Their love was, however, full and true. They laughed, they traveled, they fought and they loved through the hurdles life tossed their way. They found strength in their relationship. Ardith would often joke that Richard had to go last, because she just couldn’t live without him. Richard’s death in 2007 was a testament to that, as Ardith slowly slipped away into her Alzheimer’s after she no longer had him around. They are now together, bound in love for eternity.

Richard’s and Ardith’s marriage sired three children, Dave White, Blaine White (who preceded her in death in 1974) and Coleen Farrell. Four grandchildren were smothered in her love and cuddles, Tara White, Justin White, Amanda Avery and Laura Smith. Five great-grandchildren, Tysen White, Noah White, Isabella White, Natalie White and Brendan Avery were blessed to have the opportunity to know and love such a wonderful great-grandma.

Ardith was a hard worker and maintained employment outside of the home during a time when it was a rarity. Her resume included The Dayton Drug, The Dipper, Law Offices of Cahill and Woolson, The Law Office of Ennis and Herman (Spokane), and Green Giant.

She had a brilliant mind with an uncanny ability for numbers that came in handy while owning and operating the Montgomery Ward catalog store, working at the Columbia County Treasurer’s Office, managing multiple rental properties they owned and running the Dixie School, where she retired.

Her grandchildren will remember her in the kitchen of the pink house she and Richard built on Dayton Avenue. They will picture themselves setting on white stools at the kitchen bar with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made all the more special because they were made with grandma’s strawberry jam. Fresh cookies, apple dumplings, warm rolls, macaroni and cheese and fruit salad were a few of the comfort foods she excelled at cooking.

Ardith was an avid painter, a joyful Holiday Rambler traveler and book reader.

She loved her family and was proud of the people who came before her. She fought to pass the memories and heirlooms of the past on to future generations. She placed carefully written notes saying, “I hope that you will remember the love that was put into making (this) for you” in many of the heirlooms she passed on to her family.

She adored her grandchildren, creating a lifetime of memories with them at her home and at the cabin.

Alzheimer’s stole away much of what made Ardith the amazing woman she was — but it never took away the depth of love she felt for her family.

Ardith’s last words were the phrase she used most frequently in her life,

“I love you.”

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