“This one,” I said to my sister Shannon as we stood in front of the largest bouquet in the store. She nodded.
I didn’t know the price of the bouquet that I didn’t think I’d even be able to lift and things have been financially tight, but it didn’t matter. We’d make it work. Nothing else would do.
The siblings and I stood glancing past balloons for birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries. The Get well soon! balloons with their bold primary colors made me physically flinch. Deep breath.
We settled on two metallic-y I love yous. And then asked the clerk to show us every single solid colored balloon that even semi-matched them.
“What’s the special occasion?” asked the clerk as she finished tying the last strings on our balloons as our giant flower bouquet sat in the cart practically towering over us.
“They’re for our grandma,” I said, trying not to sound as somber as I was feeling. “She’s been sick.”
“That’s so sweet,” she said. And then added with an encouraging smile, “I’m sure she’ll love them.”
The five of us—three great-grandkids and two significant others for moral support—sat snuggly together, squished onto Grandma’s twin-sized bed.
Grandma sat in her brown-leather recliner in some sort of state between waking and sleeping. She was completely unaware that her great-grandchildren were sitting just a few feet away, passing a tissue box between them.
It felt for a moment as if we might be able to reach her through the fog. “Grandma, it’s your grandkids!” we said together. We called like we were trying to find her in a very large house and we weren’t sure what floor she was on. “Grandma, it’s your grandkids! We’re here! Can you hear us?” She smiled and nodded.
And then we burst into tears as the fog encompassed her again.
We held a mini service of sorts. Shannon, Riley, and I taking turns reading the cards we’d written for her. I wanted her to be able to hear me, so I tried to make my voice as strong as if I were reciting a sonnet on stage, sending my voice to the back of the room. But then I got to the last line and I could barely choke out the words—“I miss you already.”
We told stories standing around her in a circle. We told her about some of our favorite memories with her. We told her about how much we’ve always loved her strength and sharp, witty sense of humor (which was often, to our great amusement, inappropriate). We told her how lucky we felt to have her as our great-grandma. And we told her how much we loved her.
I couldn’t tell if she was able to hear any of our memories or cards, but I felt some comfort in the fact that at least we were able to say it when there was still the chance she might hear.
I’ve already said goodbye, but I’m still waiting for the final word. I’m still waiting for the finality. Grief feels like it’s on pause. And I’m unsure what tense to even use. But I miss her already.