Time seems to stand still, yet it is measured in ragged breathing. Long seconds pass, too long, and all I can think is this is it, she’s going home to Jesus. But then she gasps and sucks in short almost non-existent breaths which culminate in a loud snore and a deep breath. A few more breaths more normal than the last are taken and then again, no breathing.
I lay my hand on her arm trying to keep control.
I look at her arm. I begin to stroke it back and forth with my thumb. I feel the soft, shifting age of 95. My heart wrenches as I connect with her warm, sweet, soft skin.
I can’t stop staring at her arm and I break.
I clamp my jaws together and fight off the waves.
Tears trickle down my cheeks as the memories flow through my mind and grab my heart.
I remember Grandma as she was, small, thin, yet unbelievably strong and feisty. I love her feistiness. Her quick, dry humor still resounds in my ears.
I see Grandma standing at the stove cooking, preparing a meal to feed many. My whole family sits around her dining room table laughing and talking. Grandma spends most of her time offering each of us more meat, salad, bread, milk, until we all think we could burst.
I remember watching for the moment when she would reach into the bottom cupboard and pull out her cookie jar. My small hand would go in empty through the wide mouth container and return with a large soft molasses cookie that melted in my mouth.
As I gently caress her arm I remember how she always smelled like a Kleenex (due to the fact that she always had one tucked up her sleeve!). There was always a powdery, fresh, comforting scent about her. I loved to lean into her as a little girl and just breathe deep.
I remember all the nights my dusty sisters and I took a bath using the pink bar of Caress that rested on the side of the tub.
I treasure the memories of the nights sleeping on the old mattress in the basement, in front of the crackling fireplace, snuggled up under one of Grandma’s old quilts. Sleep gradually swept over me as I listened to the logs pop and the low hum of my parents and grandparents catching up with one another.
While I stare at my grandma’s time worn arm I can almost hear her reading one of the stories she had written. My sisters and I gather around Grandma on the old plaid couch and listen intently as she tells us the story “Night Sounds on Grandpa Smith’s Farm”. The bullfrog makes his presence by a big chig-a-rum and the owls hoot their awakenings. Grandma makes the story come alive by creating each sound perfectly. And we beg to hear it again.
Memories continue to tumble through my mind. My heart is overloaded with them. I couldn’t stop them now even if I wanted to. They come alive and rush at me as I glide my thumb back over her arm.
Time stands still.
I watch her chest waiting, wondering. She breathes, I wipe away my tears.
And I pray for Jesus to come soon.