My dad and I made sure we went into the hospital room together. My family had decided we should go in pairs all the time, where we spent most of the day holding onto my abuelita who raised me and my other three siblings, myself since the age of two. My grandmother had been in palliative care for 5 days. It was Friday 13th, not that I believe this had anything to do with it. However, on this day, I was reminded that one of my best friends had died too.
We went in quietly not to wake her, and as I approached her bedside whispering “Abuelita, abuelita…” I suddenly realized she wasn’t breathing. We rushed to her side and I held her, shook her while my father ran for a nurse. She was warm, extremely warm. She had just passed minutes, seconds ago before we walked in. I held her strong, hugged her and broke down. I didn’t and couldn’t leave her side for the three hours that followed. I didn’t want to let her go. She had been in enormous pain and I knew this was best, but even at 101, she was such a big part of our lives that we couldn’t fathom a life without her. She was the glue that held us together. What now?
We were struck by grief, disbelief and now have to reinvent our lives without her. It has only been a week and it feels like reality hasn’t really kicked in. I feel somewhat numb still and as we all mourn her loss differently, we are slowly making progress. We really were not ready, even at 101. She was bright and had not lost a marble. Conscious till the end. I feel guilty, of course, as usually happens. I was late, too late to hold her hand before she left. I wanted to be there with her when it happened. I wish I had spent the night, I wish I had spent more time with her, and every regret that comes up when we lose someone.
That last week of her life, I did realize how we were alike and that brought me some peace. She held no grudges, rarely complained and loved unconditionally. She may not have been perfect, but she was perfect for me.
I miss her now and always will. This is a gift too. To love someone and grieve for them is an act of love and makes us human. I’m so grateful we had her for so long. Our abuelita rests in peace. Now, we have to learn to feel at peace without her. Slowly readjusting our sails.