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Friday, January 4, 2013

Heaven and the Crazies

Today was just like any other day.  I dropped the Crazies off to school.  I finished the grocery shopping in a blink.  I got my nails done.  I stopped by the cleaners.  I picked the Crazies up from school.

Then I got a phone call that my Nana had passed.  My brother who was the one that told me "if you want to see Nana as Nana, come now" two weeks ago had to make that very difficult phone call. 

I got off the phone.  I thought I was okay...after all, we knew this was coming.  She beat breast cancer last year by way of a radical masectomy and radiation.  She was in good health when we visited over the summer.  We talked every week as I drove to tutoring.  Then this Fall, she was admitted to the hospital a couple of times.  She had fluid in her lungs.  The cancer was back and it was not good. 

At first, she said she wanted to fight it.  She said this with the same casual air as I would use if you asked me if I was going to use a tissue for my runny nose.  "Of course!" she said.

Then she just couldn't.  It was too much.  It was too fast.  It was too painful.  It was too hard.

She had 86 years (almost 87 on Valentine's Day) on this Earth with us.  She raised five sons and outlived two husbands.  She had three grandchildren by blood, but countless others that loved her just the same.  She had three great-grandchildren who definitely knew who Nana was.

She loved light pink.  She loved roses.  She loved her son's abilities.  She loved having her nails done in a light pink (something my sister did for her when we were up there the weekend before Christmas).  She loved Clinique makeup.  She loved nightgowns...really soft nightgowns.

I believe she hung on so long so she could see certain things.  She wanted to see her boys.  She wanted to see her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.  She wanted to see her friend, GK.  She wanted to have a connection with each of us before leaving this world.  She wanted to accomplish certain things before leaving.  So, she stuck around.

The last time I saw her, she had just finished her favorite foods from one of her favorite restaurants...sole oreganato, penne in garlic and oil, baked clams, and chicken francaise.  She had rehearsed this menu with her sons for hours at a time.  She wanted to make sure they didn't forget a thing.  She ate like there was no tomorrow...and while there was a tomorrow in sight, she knew it wouldn't be the one she wanted.  She knew it would be different, so she was going to enjoy today for all it was worth.

She told me she was proud to be my grandmother.

The Crazies spent a lot of time in her bedroom that day.  Matt was putting together K-Nex with Bill and Hailey was coming in and out to check everything out.

When we left, she was exhausted.  We wore her out completely.  The Crazies gave her a kiss on her forehead.  Husband gave her a kiss and told her he loved her.  I kissed her, listened to her tell me she was proud of me, told her I loved her, and left.

I wasn't upset when I left.  I was happy because she'd finally be at peace.  She'd be comfortable.  She'd be healthy.  She'd rid herself of this diseased body that attacked her so viciously.

My brain knew it was the last time I'd see her, but my heart thought there might be one more time.

But there wasn't.

She's gone, but she lives on in my heart.

I wonder who I'll talk to on my way to tutoring now.

I wonder if I'll be able to throw around stern looks like she did.

I wonder if she'll see everything the Crazies do with their lives.

So, early this afternoon, after getting off the phone with my brother, I let out a sob.  We all do it.  We know the end is near.  We prepare.  We rationalize everything and yet it still takes us by surprise.

Clearly, the Crazies wanted to know what was wrong, so I told them.

My Nana died this morning...she's in Heaven.

The way they process Heaven is amazing.  I wish it were so simple for all of us.  Here are a few tidbits of what they had to say today and questions they asked that simply drove me to tears every single time.

  • So, she's in Heaven?  Who took her there?  God did.  So, she's with the angels and Jesus?  Yes.  Then she's safe. 
  • We kissed her on the forehead when we left.  Did she take those kisses to Heaven with her?
  •  We can talk to her?  Well, she can hear you.  She can't talk back to us?  How will we know what she's thinking?
  • So, only grandparents go to Heaven, rightNo, lots of people go to Heaven.  Old people though, right?  Mostly, yes.  But that means Daddy can go to Heaven because he's an old man!  Haha...
  • Does she hurt anymore?  No.  Is she with her family?  Yes.  Is she still in our family?  Of course...forever.

So, their questions made me cry even more.  I never expected them to have such a far-reaching interest in this world of Heaven.  Maybe that's naive of me.  Maybe I expect too little of my emotionally deep children.  Maybe I should have been ready for this, but I wasn't.  I answered all their questions as honestly as possible, but when they asked me if little kids could go to Heaven, I couldn't lie.  I could only be as honest as possible with them.  

When Matt was looking out the window at the sky asking me if she could hear him, my heart melted.  When Hailey was totally reassured of her safety by knowing that she was with the angels, I felt at peace with the answers I had given them.

I don't think that any parenting book prepares you for moments like this.  I certainly wasn't prepared for the moment when I was driving home from Tae Kwon Do tonight and Matt started asking me about the kisses on her forehead.  I nearly drove off the damn road!  Nana would have laughed at that...then she would have told me to pay attention to what I was doing!

She had a wonderful life.  She told me that several times.  We talked about the hard times too, but overall, I think she was fairly happy.  There were still things she wanted to accomplish, but there wasn't enough time.  I loved her and I'm going to miss her a lot.  Here are some pictures I'd like to share.  I know there are more from when the Crazies were younger, but I think they're on a busted laptop, so I'm not getting into that tonight.

Rest in Peace, Antoinette.

Cassie and Nana, Summer 2012
Matt, Nana, and Hailey, Summer 2012

She truly loved these two Crazies.

Our connection...she found it.

Love this woman...she could be a total pain in the ass, but she was awesome (remind you of anyone???)