Nineteen years after her husband (my Grandpa Stan), and over two years since she began fighting her own battle with cancer, Grandma Ruth went to live in heaven Saturday morning.
When Grandma asked on Thursday if someone could start staying with her all the time, that was her way of asking for permission to leave us. Grandma never did like making plans, but she wanted to know that someone would be there in case anything happened, and this finally gave her the blessing she needed to go to sleep and not wake up again.
Plans are an awesome thing to have, but the true beauty comes in seeing them in action, working perfectly. My parents and I had talked at great length about what to do when things with Grandma started to change: I made it clear I wanted to be called at any time, day or night, and that I'd be on my way immediately when that call came. And I told Mom that, if it was the middle of the night, she should try my dorm phone first, since it rings loudly and would easily be able to wake me up.
There is really nothing quite like a phone call at 5:35 in the morning to get one's adrenaline going, at least, given that I knew exactly what that ringing meant for me and for the day ahead:
J: Good morning
J: Should I get in the car now?
M: Yes, you should.
J: Okay, on my way. Talk soon.
I was out with friends the night before, so I didn't get to bed until 2:00 AM that morning, but the change from peaceful sleeping to adrenaline rush was instantaneous, and I was on the road by 5:49 (keep in mind it is a 5-8 minute walk from my room down to Skoglund where I have to park). Once I was in the car I called Mom back: Should I hurry, or is it too late? Yes, I should hurry.
I put my speeding skills to the test that morning, and, on a side note, discovered that, even flooring my gas pedal, my car can only accelerate up to 60 mph on the I35 entrance ramp from Hwy 19, though a cruising speed of 83 miles per hour was achieved shortly thereafter. Your deep thought of the day - when you see those wackos racing by you on the freeway, always in such a hurry like they have to get somewhere half an hour ago, consider that today, that was me.
5 weeks and 12 hours after moving into N C Little Hospice, Grandma breathed her last at 6:04 AM under the loving watch of her family. Mom called me at 6:11 to let me know I could slow down to posted speeds, and I arrived safely at the hospice at about 6:25, fittingly parking facing the wrong direction on the street.
Though I had thoughts of "why didn't I try to get going even sooner?", the reality is that I did not physically have time to get there between when I received my early morning phone call and when Grandma died. But this is okay - I got to say my goodbyes on Thursday when she was still alert. Even more, my parents and my plan for phone notification came through exactly as we'd discussed, and, though I didn't make it in time, that's all I could've asked for.
So now I ask myself, are these tears of sorrow or tears of joy? Grandma is gone from this world, and I like to imagine her soul was busy flying towards heaven, escorted by angels and flying towards the One who holds His arms wide open. He greets her, telling her "job well done", and standing next to Him is Grandpa Stan, who's been waiting for Grandma to come Home for 19 years. Yes, I will be doing research this summer to try to figure out a more theologically sound approach, but for now, I know that cancer is no longer plaguing her, and I like this imagery just fine. I guess they're tears of joy. Welcome Home, Grandma.