preface: I wrote this in January 2013. My best buddy died in January, 2010. It might seem a bit childish for a middle-aged woman to write a letter to her Gram, but it felt good to do it and to then trim it down for public sharing. I’m not sad, just human, and so I thought I’d write her a note. Thanks for reading a bit of her story…
My Dear Gram in heaven,
It has been three years since I held your hand and said goodbye. You will always be my best buddy. I loved that you joined in with my lingo at some point and started referring to me as your best buddy too. Remember how many day trips we took? Sometimes we’d have a destination in mind, to find a good bench and people-watch, and other times you’d say, “Let’s just drive. Take the long way.” I would get us so lost, and you would try to refrain from giggling at the situation. You made getting lost okay to the point that I didn’t consider us lost after a while. When I drive to any of the places we went together, I smile. When I get lost driving myself somewhere today, I remember your giggle.
We went through so much together, didn’t we? I look back and have no explanation for how I did 90% of what I’ve done other than by the grace of God and the presence of my best buddy, relationships which are in many ways indistinguishable. You were so good to me, Gram. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many things I’ve realized that you taught me, but the gist of it is that most of them have to do with somehow loving someone.
I remember sitting in your doctor’s office the day before Thanksgiving, when Suetta opened the discussion about hospice. We had our discussion, did some paperwork, and went back to the car. I stopped at Dunkins to get coffee for Rachael and me, and vanilla chai for you, and you said, “Let’s just drive. Take the long way.”
I wanted to get us lost because I knew it would be our last drive.
When I remember with every detail those last few days of your life on Earth, what strikes me is the unceasing flow of people whose lives you’d touched. They didn’t actually come to say goodbye. They said, “Thank you.” For those last few days you were allowing people to come say their goodbyes by thanking you one last time for being who you were to them. You were Gram to a lot of people, some I didn’t even know. I felt honored to see the many people to whom you also had come to mean so much.
You asked Rachael and me to stay with you around the clock starting on Sunday. I think you were technically asking me to stay with you, and Rachael to stay with me. Of course you wanted to know that I would be loved in your absence. I’m so glad I was able to assure you of that, and it makes me think of something you asked me. I believe it was the most important question I have ever answered.
Because you had come to trust me completely when it came to your medical care and what pills to take and all that, you looked at me while you were struggling with something and asked your last question. “What am I supposed to do?” And I just said it. It came from a place I can’t identify, and without hesitation I said, “Oh, sweetie, you have done everything you were supposed to do.”
Our last conversation began a day later, when you weren’t really awake or thinking right anymore, or so I assumed, and you invited Rachael to tell you about heaven. Oh that gives me chills just remembering it, with that anticipatory smile you gave her. And after everyone in the world who knew you had come to thank you and say goodbye, I went to give you the last drop of medication. I didn’t know whether you could hear us anymore, but in case you could, I’d always tell you what I was going to do. “I’m going to give you some medicine,” I said as I leaned toward you. And your last spoken word was to me as you whispered, “Thanks.”
Well done, thou good and faithful servant. You had done everything you were supposed to do, my friend. I love you with all my heart. I still cry sometimes, not often, but particularly on this here anniversary and on each of our birthdays, and it’s with deep gratitude for everything, just everything. I don’t have any sort of complicated grief. It couldn’t be more simple. We were buddies.