Life. Is a beautiful thing. Cliche. Sometimes it’s the easiest thing to say.
When I awoke on Saturday morning, the morning of my 32nd birthday, I saw a text from my mom, sent just a half an hour earlier. Simply requesting that I call. With the seven hour time difference, I knew it was late there so I didn’t want to wait long to call, but I opened my first birthday gift from ali. I knew that the call would be about my grandma. It was time. She hadn’t eaten in the last five days and had slept for the last three. Her body had been slowly shutting down since her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I couldn’t help but feeling relieved that it was a day earlier in Michigan. I just don’t think I could handle my great-grandma passing on my birthday.
When I finally did call my mom at 7.30am Cairo time, I was greeted with the news that my Great-Grandma M had ‘gone home to be with the Lord’ a few hours earlier. At the same time that she left the earth, my cousin gave birth to a healthy little boy named Noah. It’s amazing how the cycle of life just keeps going and we are blessed in times of sorrow and need. The viewing is this evening, the funeral set to be Monday morning. I keep imagining the last time I saw my grandma. Sitting around her breakfast table, looking out the window, remembering when I used to play out in the field with my brothers.
I have a picture on our shelf at home. It’s black and white, taken in 1960. My great-grandma and great-grandpa sitting on a white bench in the sunshine. Smiling, arms around each other. Young. Vibrant. Happy. She had missed him since he died eight years ago. And now she joins him once again.
I’m thankful my grandma led a full life. She was 96 years old after all, nearly a century. I just wish that I had been there in the final days. That I was with my family now as they say their final goodbyes and let her go. I have to find a way to come to a peace within myself. It’s strange to be so far away. The next time I am in northern Michigan, she won’t be there.
Amidst this death, we also celebrate life. The life of little Noah being born. My own life, all 32 years of it so far. We spent the day as a family. My first birthday as a mom. I sit here the day after my birthday, having just found this in my drafts, entitled ‘Great-Grandma’s’. I started it one year ago, exactly…
I’m so lucky to still have mine around. I just got my first birthday card of the season, from my Great-Grandma. She’s in her nineties now and still has spunk. While visiting her this summer we looked through some old photos. It was amazing to go back in time and see her in her thirties, married and happy.
I never finished it. That was the last time I saw her. Margaret Mulvihill. Born in Middlesborough, England on April 24, 1912. She was so happy that I had lived in England. But I never asked her about her childhood there. The pictures we went through that summer afternoon in July 2007 only went as far back to her early days with her husband James. She even had pictures of Holland, Michigan (Windmill Island) in the 70’s! I remember thinking how amazing it was that we had been to the same place decades apart and that I was only just then discovering this part of her history.
Of course you never know the last time you will see someone. I never thought that would be the last time, but it was. I recall those moments around the table, sipping hot tea, turning the pages of worn photo books, corners bent on the favorite pages, listening to her history as she remembered it. Suddenly I know that I’m ok and that the last time I saw my grandma possibly had more meaning to each of us than being there now.