In the last year I’ve seen life come into this world and I’ve also seen it go, hopefully on to a peaceful place of rest.
As I sit down to write, I’m not exactly sure why I am being drawn to this experience-but one thing that is very clear to me, is that in birth and in death there are very evident truths. Love happens to be the constant factor in both, every time. It is, by many accounts the most simple and powerful truth of all.
One of favorite movies is Love Actually-and the opening scene takes place in an airport where Hugh Grant narrates…”It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
When I got the call that my grandfather was read his last rites, I naturally felt a pang in my stomach as I was thousands of miles away on vacation. We knew he wasn’t well, but we weren’t sure just how much time he had left. I remember crying hearing my mom’s voice on the phone, as this was her father and thinking it was nearly impossible that I would get home to say goodbye. We’d have to get the first flight out and then dig ourselves out of a New York winter snowstorm, to drive an hour and a half to get to him. It was unlikely, and as upsetting as that was, I tried to be at peace with the fact that I had spent meaningful, quality time with him prior to his illness and all the while he was in the nursing home. My cousin Lori got me home-she immediately arranged with the travel agent and made it happen. To her I am forever grateful.
The drive was the longest and most nerve wracking of my life-I knew that everyone we loved, family and close friends had been surrounding him over the 30+ hrs since my mom had called. They said he was waiting for me, which was very bittersweet. I knew the second I parked my car and started to run inside, being met by many people just how lucky we really are. Just how evident this truth is-love. He was a simple, noble, dignified man. He worked hard and loved and protected his family at all costs. He provided for us all and he most certainly taught us a thing or two-both with his silly jokes, but also very practical, real lessons.
Seeing him laying there, I could physically feel that the life was truly already drained from his body. My cousins, my sister, my mom, my aunt and of course my grandmother-his wife of 50+ years were right at his side, taking turns holding his hand. I was, well I don’t actually think there are words for it exactly, the fact that I had the chance to see him one last time. I got to kiss him on his forehead and tell him he could rest then. It was time for him to “say goodnight”, this was a longstanding joke in our family. Then we waited.We sang to him, we talked about him, we consoled eachother and we watched him go. I remember my grandmother holding her hands on his chest, willing his body to give in, because the pain he must have endured was too difficult to see. Not for someone as gentle as he. He died around 1 am that morning. Just over 4 hours after I got to be with them all…from the Dominican Republic.
In between being born and passing on, there is a whole lot of life in between. Some of it is messy, sometimes it’s out of order. Some of it is simple, other times it isn’t so black and white. Sometimes love alone won’t help you sort it all out. It isnt always easy to accept or change. Sometimes you are completely lost/scared/worried. Other peoples truths don’t match yours and it may hurt. You can’t change that, you probably never will be able to.
Appreciate the little truths. The simple ones. The laughter, the breaths you get to take effortlessly. The hands you get to hold. The food in your belly, the hair on your head. The birthdays you get to celebrate. Not everyone gets these.