Angel Bumps: Love Shined Through
I almost missed my grandmother's story because I simply didn't listen well enough when she was alive. I didn't ask questions. I didn't get to know her beyond the woman who bought me a chocolate bar every time she went to get more beer, or the woman who stood up for me when the whole family was against me. Not while she was alive anyway. The most important things I could possibly learn about my grandmother, I learned from her ghost.
Her death was just about as silent as her life.
Sometimes our efforts are about as productive as pouring sprinkles over a dirty dish of melted ice cream. Empty nest brought my grandmother to drinking, and years after she quit drinking, with fierce determination, she was diagnosed with liver problems. At one point, we lost her for a minute. Doctors revived her and treated what they could, but her time with us was going to be short.
My grandmother smiled the entire day on Christmas in 1998. Her body was full of fluids, but she never complained of any pain she must have been feeling. She still helped cook dinner and handed presents to everyone, and the only difference between her behavior that Christmas and any other Christmas was at a few points, she had to sit down for a long minute.
My mother gave her a sweater as a gift and suggested she try it on. My grandmother responded, "Why don't you try it on for me?" I think she knew who would be wearing that sweater.
The next day, my grandmother was admitted into the hospital. She must have been wanting to do that for some time and wanted to wait until after Christmas, as if she knew her time was coming and just wanted one more Christmas with her family.
I visited her in the hospital, alone in the room with her as family talked about adult things behind in the hallway. (Even at the age of twenty, I still wasn't considered an adult.) My grandmother told me, and I'll never forget this...
"Michelle, you have to tell them to let me go."
While sitting on her deathbed, she told me what really happened in her moment of death before the doctors revived her. She saw a mansion. A Big, beautiful, white mansion with a huge garden and a trickling brook. Peace. She felt peace like she never felt before. She wanted to go back to it. She wanted us to let her go back to it.
A few days later, the town of Wheeling, West Virginia, turned white from an unpredicted snow storm exclusive only to this area. Enormous flakes dropped down one by one during her funeral. I can't tell you what that means on a spiritual level, but I can tell you that storm was related to my grandma's death in some abstract way.
Months passed, and cancer started claiming family members. My father passed away. My grandmother's sister, who used to come to her house weekly to help clean the things my grandmother couldn't, due to her knees, too passed away. My father's sister... all three within a month of each other.
Then my mom's sister, my Aunt Jo, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The way cancer stole people from our lives... at that point we were very discouraged.
At some time during all the hospital and doctor visits, my mother drove north to be with her sister. On the way there, she had one of those accidents where the police reported that they had no idea how my mother walked away, unharmed, from what should have been a deadly accident. On the driver's seat of her battered car sat a coin. It was the Serenity Prayer I bought my mother on a coin years before in hopes it would protect and inspire; a coin she had no idea she still possessed.
At the hospital, my aunt Jo received surgery to remove the tumors. When she lay in bed, asleep from the surgery, my mother and uncle decided to use that moment to grab something to eat. When they returned to the hospital, the nurse spoke to them, "It was so nice that your mother could come visit her."
My mom asked, "My mother?"
The nurse responded, "Yes. Your mother came to visit, and she sat next to Jo holding her hand the entire time you guys were gone. It was so sweet."
My mom questioned further, "What did she look like?"
The nurse described my grandmother, exactly. My mom responded, "That was definitely my mother, but she passed away last Christmas."
The nurse excused herself from the conversation and wouldn't speak of it anymore.
Aunt Jo later told me she also felt someone hold her hand before the surgery when nobody was there. Her sixth sense told her that it was my grandmother, but she didn't dare speak of it in fear nobody would believe her. Well, they believe her now.