I had the strangest reaction to the final episode of 'The Big C'... a television show about a woman dying of cancer.
Besides being a teary eyed mess by the end of the episode, I woke up the next morning still crying!! The thought of her being gone. Leaving behind her teenage son. Her husband. Her brother. Family and loved ones. But especially her son, was too much. It just seemed so unfair.
A single comment made during the episode really stuck in my mind.
Death brings out kind acts in others.
And it forced me to see the beauty in death, no matter how horrible the experience or situation. That death has the capacity to bring families together. Turn anger into strength and resilience. Awake emotions and give us an understanding of what life is. What it means. Its value. And it's unpredictable time frame.
Admittedly, I personally haven't had a lot experience with death. Other than the passing of pets, my only true memory of death is when my Grandmother died in 1991. Yet to this day her memory remains forever strong in my heart.
There are certain things I will never forget...
The taste of a boiled, unseasoned potato or carrot will always remind me of my Grandmother. The flavor so pure. Untainted. Delicious. It was the only way she ever cooked her food.
Pieces of cling wrap rinsed and draped over kitchen faucets. A survivor of the Great Depression, she wasted nothing and re-used everything.
The bedpan under my bed whenever I slept over. Even though the bathroom was the next room she insisted it was best not to fully wake myself. A good night's sleep was more important.
Her beautiful legs. Yes, this may sound strange but I will never forget the day she lifted her dress a little to reveal her beautiful, naturally hairless legs. I was stunned. For a woman in her 70's, or any age for that matter, her legs were gorgeous!!
Her butterfly kisses. This is my favorite memory. After tucking me into bed she would tickle my cheeks with her fluttering eyelashes. A gentle kiss goodnight.
And my last memory. I was 24 years old.
I stood over my Grandmother and watched as she slept. Her breathing soft. Short. Her face peaceful.
The sun streamed in the windows behind me, illuminating my silhouette just as she gently opened her eyes and focused her gaze upon me. After a few seconds her whole face lit up with recognition. She smiled gleefully, eyes twinkling.
Oh Ruth, I thought you were an angel!
I will always think of these as her parting words to me.
A week later I once again stood over her. This time my Aunt on her other side gently fixing her blouse and kissing her face, softly speaking to her.
I looked at Nan's expressionless face and still body. And remember thinking how unfamiliar she looked, how much her face no longer looked like hers. That this was not my Nan. She was no longer in there.
But it is what she wanted.
Her spirit had finally been set free. Free of the suffering and exhaustion. She was no longer imprisoned by this empty shell that lay before me.
Twenty-three years later and I still choke up when I remember these little moments. The effects she's had on my life. The values she's imparted. She may have left this Earth but these are the things I hold on to and cherish. That will remain forever in my heart.
This, is the beauty in death.
(July 3rd, 2013)