Friday, February 6, 2009

-- slowly pulling away from shore


We're home, but only temporarily. Dan's lovely grandmother, someone I love as if she were my own, is now mostly sleeping. Yesterday she held our hands and told us she loved us even though the effort of talking was almost unbearable, but today she rests, her ship slowly pulling outward from the shore.

There are so many complicated emotions when dealing with the edges of death and I don't really want to go into all of them right now. But one thing surprised me earlier.

My biggest fear of getting old has been this moment. The margins of life where we must reluctantly rely on others for caretaking. The whole idea of having another person (a stranger!) change my clothes scared the living daylights out of me.

Until today.

Until I helped the hospice nurse gently lay Bubbie into a more comfortable position. I thought it would be hard to see her wrapped up in the sheets as we repositioned her but I didn't. She was beautiful. I don't know how to explain it. I could see how really this is all part of life, the ease of caring for one another however we can.

Maybe someday I will do volunteer work to help people at these edges. It seems like a beautiful cause, mankind serving eachother in our most vulnerable moments.

And so while we sit and wait for the dreaded call, I read these words from a comforting booklet, Gone From My Sight, that hospice provided on the process of dying:

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: "Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

~ Henry Van Dyke

8 comments:

melissa said...

H, that is so beautiful to me. Thank you for taking the time and posting this for the rest of us to witness.

Though it is a hard time, I am thankful that you can be there for Bubbie, for Dan, and for you so that you can experience life in all of its wholeness.

I love you guys. I am sorry for the sadness that is, and that comes. You know where we are if you need us.

k2nmste said...

I'm sorry to hear of your news, Holly. Lost my treasured grandfather about five years ago, and it doesn't stop being a sorrow. But your ship sailing description, with the excerpt, is very moving. Especially for someone near the port in Philly. I hope she -- and you both -- have smooth sailing, despite the letting go.

spleeness said...

I feel so touched to hear such heartfelt thoughts from friends & family... thank you everyone. It really means a lot.

geekhiker said...

Sorry to hear of this. Seeing my grandmother go through the same type of thing right now, I know how you must feel.

I have no idea bow the hospice workers do it, to be honest. I wouldn't last a week.

Niffer said...

What a beautiful post.

Shera said...

Thank you Holly; you truly are gifted at putting feelings into words...

hautepocket said...

Beautiful post. Best wishes to you and Dan during this difficult time with his grandmother.

AndreaLeigh said...

i'm very sorry for your loss. i can't imagine how difficult this must be. prayers with your families at this time.

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