October 20, 2010

Her voice broke. She muffled her sobs. I strained my ears and fought the apple-sized wad of emotions lodged snugly and permanently in my throat. This was it. This was goodbye. She was calling me to say goodbye. Her handwriting – so beautiful and lovely – will no longer scrawl across elegant, scented, birthday cards. Her soft voice will no longer say hello to me on the telephone. Her elaborately designed attire, that was always much too sophisticated for whichever occasion it was worn, will no longer smell like vintage perfume.
I called her Nama. And she had stage four pancreatic, lung, and kidney cancer. It just spread. She was never the type to listen to a doctor – nor the type to give herself a break. Running a highly-acclaimed Bed and Breakfast with only the help of a cook and one maid; she was my 70-something-year old, beautiful, super-hero grandmother. In my sophomore year of high school, my family’s awareness and involvement in Nama’s health troubles accelerated. My Mom was with her – her mother – through it all, and my Dad and brother complimented my ghastly cooking while she was gone. We held onto every ounce of attainable hope. My house was mother-less on Mother’s Day. But that’s because my Mom was needed. By her own Mom
Everything was put into perspective that year. The value of family, and every memory created. Nama’s intellect, her spoiled dogs, her appreciation for the arts, her secretive and intriguing past; those comforts shown through the pain – like a beam of sunlight on the California Coast in which she resided. Death met her two and a half months after we knew that cancer was indeed, the culprit.
I wrote her a letter. Not doing so would have been a figurative death of me. At least then, it would have been. “This is just me speaking, Nama. No format; no structure,” I wrote, breathing deeply. I told her how much I admired her. I told her now hard I’ve cried. I told her how I wished I knew her better. I thanked her for everything she’s given me. I thanked her for being my Nama. I told her I’m going to go by “Nama” when I’m a grandmother. I wrote the lyrics of my favorite song, by Matchbox Twenty. The lead singer wrote the song when his own mother was dying of cancer. The words were like liquid – flowing from my heart onto the blank sheets of notebook paper. It was only two pages. But it was enough.
For me writing is like breathing. And mu letter to my grandmother was the most liberating form of closure I ever hoped to have. She read it, and wept to my Mom, who was kneeling on her bedside, touched by my simple words. Nama passed away the following day.
Again, I strained by ears, desperate to soak up every exhaled breath and broken sentence.
“Goodbye, honey. I love you…and this…is my time. I hope I’ve been good to you in your life.
You will have such a beautiful life. I’m…so emotional, Lauren. I love you.” And that was it.
A numb, lost feeling following the conversation. That same feeling distinguished itself, into a searing pain, following her death the very next day. But it was alright. Words have power – and words were exchanged. Words of love. Words of happiness. Words that can touch one’s soul and make them yearn for something more. Wherever Nama is, she’s smiling. Right now. And because of that truth – I’m at ease.
Lauren Prater