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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.