“There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.”
— Isabel Allende, Eva Luna
My wife and I were with my grandmother the night before she passed away. At that time she called the confines of a nursing facility “home” and age had certainly taken its toll on her body – rendering her almost unrecognizable (she was 93 when she passed).
Some family members declined to visit my grandmother during this time – claiming it was too difficult to see what she’d been reduced to, and wanted to just remember her “as she was”. This “cop out” excuse is used more often than you might think in homes across America – and what might surprise you is I can totally understand it.
No one wants to see their loved ones withering away – a pale comparison to the vital spirits they were long ago. And while I’ll admit I can still remember what my beloved grandmother looked like on her last day here on earth, it is NOT how I remember her in my heart.
I still can see her standing in the kitchen of the house she adored, making a cup of tea and munching on a cookie she grabbed from her “goody” cabinet. Or wearing an apron, looking very much like June Cleaver, preparing a batch of her amazingly delicious eggplant parmesan, which we were all fortunate enough to then eat.
In my heart she’s still the beautiful woman she was back then – regal in her appearance, with a unique laugh I still can hear and a feeling of comfort I still can feel whenever I see a photograph of her.
And while images of the woman that no longer exists can be difficult to see at times, often forcing tears from my eyes, keeping her memory alive and appreciating all the time we shared together keeps her with me always.
It can be hard to accept the physical changes that inevitably occur to the ones we love when their health declines for whatever reason. It’s a sad reality we’ll all have to deal with at some point in life, and requires us to set aside our inability to process these feelings in order to provide our loved ones with the care they deserve right up until the end.
No matter the physical condition when people leave this earth, no one can erase who they were and STILL are in your heart.