Haven't posted in a while. My mother, who has been battling a slowly deteriorating heart/circulation condition for about a year and a half, was critically ill throughout June.
She passed away, at home in her bright, picture-filled bedroom, and reasonably peacefully, on Wednesday, July 1, with my sister Deb and I next to her.
Losing a parent provides enough emotional fodder to fill up the blogosphere.
But this one is really about my kids' reaction to the loss of their beloved Nana.
At my mom's aide's suggestion, we brought all three boys to see her the Saturday before she died. I wanted her to see them, in the hope that it would bring her some joy. And, frankly, though we'd talked about how sick Nana was, I wanted to the boys to get a visual picture.
Nana looked pretty good to me, but she was in a hospital bed, with oxygen tubes in her nose (Yes, I'd explained this all to the boys beforehand). She was alert but clearly weak.
Kyle, my 10-year-old, took matters in hand right away. He walked up to Nana, leaned over the hospital bed to hug her and said, "Hi Nana, It's Kyle." He stroked her arm gently and murmured, "I love you."
Jesse left the room quickly, choosing to sit on Mick's lap in the living room and think things through. I knew we'd hear from him later.
Seth pulled out some Legos and sprawled on the floor of the bedroom, allowing his grandmother to watch him play. She smiled as he created a complex Lego army and flew his Lego planes through the air.
On our way back to Manhattan, Jesse leaned into me and whispered, "Mommy, I have a secret to tell you: Nana looks like she's going to die!"
"I think so too," Seth said, grabbing my hand.
Kyle nodded. "I agree," he said.
I grabbed Jesse and hugged him hard. What a brave little guy, to give voice to those thoughts. With that, Jesse, my little toughie, burst into tears. "But she's our only Nana. I don't want her to die."
Mick scooped him up and carried him, crying and talking, down the steps to the bus stop.
I spent much of the next few days at my mother's apartment, watching over her, trying my best to comfort her (soft music, soft lights, a medication protocol that actually worked, thanks to hospice) and, frankly, waiting for the inevitable. It was a time of intense awe and deep pain.
My sadness was only compounded by the knowledge that my boys would lose so much.
I explained to them ahead of time what would happen at the funeral: Nan would be in her coffin but it would be closed and they would not have to see her. People would tell stories about Nana and why they loved her. Then we would all go to the cemetery, where Nana's coffin would be placed in the ground.
"I want to say something," Kyle said. "She was my Nana."
"Of course you can," I replied, thinking he'd never be able to summon up the courage to speak in front of a large group on such a difficult day.
I was proud of my trio that day, with their black dress shoes and their button-down shirts. They sat and endured as the Nana speeches went on. They were present, they were engaged, they were there for their grandmother.
After I finished speaking (I was last, as the youngest child), Kyle strode up to the podium and took the microphone. I was so stunned that I don't remember exactly what he said in his high, pitchy voice, but it went something like this:
"My Nana was a wonderful person. My brothers, Seth and Jesse, and I loved her very much. And we're very sad that she's gone." With that, I held Kyle in my arms and walked him back to our seat.
Sobs filled the room.
My overwhelming feeling was one of pride. That he'd stepped up for his Nana in such a profound and loving way, one that I'd thought would be way beyond his years and emotional maturity level.
It was at once a loving goodbye and a glimpse at the man he would be, thanks, in part, to the steadfast love of his Nana.
Bye Mom. We'll always miss you. But clearly, you've passed on some of the best of you, by loving my boys and teaching them how to express their love. It is a wonderful gift.