Knocking On Heaven’s Door

My earliest memories are of my grandmother, Gaga, and me walking the beach, searching for shells and making sand castles. They are my fondest memories, forever imprinted in my mind and held close to my heart.

Gaga is 92 and while I always tell people she ‘is kicking and doing great’ that isn’t the whole truth. Yes, given her age and her life long love for cigarettes, she is doing pretty great. But she also has many health issues and doesn’t get around like she used to. While she still drives and can get around (albeit slowly and shakily), climbing stairs and walking the beach are out of the question.

It has been years since Gaga made a beach trip with us. So we were so thankful our sweet family friend, Ryan, leant us his fantastic beach house last week. Because of the elevator, Gaga was able to make the trip knowing she did not have to climb a stair and would have unlimited access to the balcony with perfect beach views. Gaga, who is also Marjorie’s namesake, spent the past five days feeling the ocean breeze on her face and basking in the sun on the balcony.

Of course, her favorite part of the trip (and ours too) was watching all three of her great-grandbabies play together for the very first time. Because of Marjorie’s health issues, this week was the first opportunity we had to get all three babies together. To say we were excited is the understatement of the year.

The beach is a happy place for many people, myself included. The ocean waves and breeze seem to freeze time and wash you in peace and calm. That is what this week brought for me, despite the chaos of chasing children. It was my family, all together. We did absolutely nothing and yet, every day was filled with laughter and new memories.

Wednesday night, my mom and I were on the balcony watching the sun go down. The feelings and thoughts that I had tucked in the back of my head surfaced as I glanced at my mom.

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“This may very well be our last beach trip together,” I said with tears in my eyes.

Mom knew what I meant and responded with a simple, “I know.”

We hugged, took a deep breath together and walked back inside to the baby feeding frenzy.

Four years ago, when Gaga was diagnosed with breast cancer, my therapist, Mary, asked me what feelings came up when I thought about the possibility of her no longer being here. I shut Mary down faster than Manning shuts me down when I ask about bedtime. I couldn’t talk about. I could not think about it. Gaga was going to live forever and that was that.

Fast forward a few years and a lot of life lessons later, Gaga will not live forever. Then again, you will not live forever and neither will I. Death has been the most difficult fact of life for me to accept, as I am sure it is for everyone. How can we imagine life without the people we love most in this world? Then again, how can a parent move on with life after burying a child?

I have come so close to both of these questions. Closer than I ever wanted to be and because of that I have found comfort around life’s biggest certainty – death. I will never be ready to say goodbye to anyone I love, but overtime I have come to realize that life does go on. While our loved ones are no longer on this earth, their memories remain in our heart forever.

Knowing that we only have a short time with those we love, makes me appreciate time with my loved ones so much more. It makes me stop and try my hardest to remember Gaga’s smell and what her hand feels like in mine. Taking mental photographs (and too many iPhone photos) to count. This past week, I wanted nothing more than for time to stand still.

Shopping and lunch outings were not important to me this week. Gaga no longer enjoys those things because they are too difficult for her. I preferred to spend my time hanging on the balcony or in the living room watching bad daytime tv. I didn’t care. We were together.

Gaga might be around for many years to come, knowing her she will. My Marjorie gets her fight and gusto from her namesake. This isn’t a blog about Gaga’s death – or anyone’s in particular. It is about appreciating that special time together because nothing is forever. It is about putting aside things that we may want to do, to spend time with our loved ones. We don’t always have to be ‘doing’ or ‘talking’ to be connected and making memories with someone we love.

Sometimes life is about learning to simply sit in someone’s presence, knowing how incredibly special that is – not just for them, but for you. Because at the end of the day, whether we are 92 or 9-months, we are all just knocking on Heaven’s door.

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