Never enough: the human flaw of greed and the importance of thankfulness

Call this a Tuesdays with Ana post on Thursday, if you will. Or my need to write.

I was able to visit “Sara” yesterday and today. Her family was more than gracious in allowing me time at her bedside, even letting me speak with her alone. I was touched, embarrassed, and apologetic. Who was I, a random stranger, to intrude on their private vigil of grief? To make it worse, I could not stop crying no matter how hard I bit on my tongue and the inside of my cheek. How ridiculous is that…stoically mourning the imminent loss of your mother while someone you don’t even know sheds tears?

I am grateful and honored to have been entrusted with the time holding Sara’s hand.

And yet.

I am upset I could not have more.

I thought (her daughter offered, asked) I would hold vigil for two and a half hours today while the family took care of obligations and had a gap in their coverage. I was not entitled to it, but I was offered that chance. Then their plans changed, and instead of a vigil I was given twenty minutes (a generous gift, let me make clear)…except the nurses came in and needed me to leave so they could shift her position. I didn’t even get to sit down again at her bedside before my time was up. The nurse took Sara’s hand and placed it in mine (when I rested my hand on top of her bedsheet, hesitant to cause her discomfort and make her cold by moving the sheet). “It’s okay,” she said as she lifted Sara’s arm and moved it next to mine.

“I don’t want to hurt her, or for her to be cold,” I said, stroking the soft skin and tracing the rounded edge of her thumbnail.

“Don’t worry,” the nurse said. “She’s not at all cold.”

“There’s no change,” her daughter had told me before taking my food package and going to the kitchen area to eat the meal I’d brought. “But she can hear.”

I’d spent my scant ten minutes holding a conversation inside my head because I’d said so much yesterday, enough to embarrass me. After the nurse let me back in, I sat down on the chair and held her hand that the nurse gave me.

And then it was over.

Before I got a chance, my time was up and family needed their time with their mother, grandmother, aunt, and mother-in-law.

If her daughter yesterday had accepted the gifts and politely allowed me a quick hand-holding before asking me to leave, I would have gone away glad for a precious moment. Because she gave me more (nearly an hour), I wanted more. And because she offered more today, I’d allowed myself to hope (how can I say “allowed” when hearts never ask permission?) for the two and a half hours…a third visit…

Funny thing, human nature. The more we get, the more we demand. Instead of appreciating the time I’d gotten with Sara today (and the honor of her daughter accepting the meal, eating some, and praising it), I was mad. Upset. Storming (inside) that it wasn’t fair, I didn’t get the two and a half hours, I didn’t even get the half hour, why couldn’t the nurse have waited until I’d had my turn…

And then I walked out to my car, sobbing because it was over. I’d realized yesterday that Sara (the real Sara, the one who teased me last week and waved from the entryway) was already gone. I knew I’d never get that Sara back, but I thought I’d have just a little longer to hold her hand. I barely said a word today, but we talked inside my head. I watched her struggle for breath, and I closed my eyes to feel her presence with me. I wondered how crazy she thought I was to sit and stare at her, and I apologized whenever I needed another tissue. I told her thank you, in so many ways and for so many reasons. Her daughter had told me Sara could still hear, but it felt as if she heard my heart more clearly than my vocal chords. Or at least it felt like I could say things to her more clearly without the unreliable mechanics of producing sound. Her body worked so hard to take in each breath. I’ve been told it’s impossible, but it felt like pain. Pain each time for each effort.

Her daughter had been amazingly kind and generous to me, but it was time. I hadn’t (I think) overstayed my welcome, but I couldn’t presume to anything more.

“I’ll see you soon,” Sara’s daughter said to me as I left, and I recognized the signal from childhood training in social cues. “I won’t see you again except perhaps at the funeral, but in order not to seem rude I will offer the empty promise as a way to let you down easily and offer what I can…as long as you don’t try to take me up on it.”

The generosity is real. But so is the limit.

I sobbed, angry at the unfairness. Knowing I was expecting something that could never happen.

Had things been different for my second grandmother, I would have been the granddaughter when she died. Or at least one of the many granddaughters, but a granddaughter who had a special connection with her whether anyone recognized it or not.

I thanked Sara for letting me feel as if I had a grandmother again, but she wasn’t mine. Her family let me borrow her for a little while, and it was time to return her.

I drove away, not even wanting to take up a parking space in a lot for family coming to see family, and I wished I could have mourned at the bedside of my grandmother in the nursing home.

Then I went to church and polished the brass chalices and paten as if my life depended on it.

Now the problem is that there’s no more brass to polish.

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12 thoughts on “Never enough: the human flaw of greed and the importance of thankfulness

  1. pao says:

    *hug* I don’t think it is ridiculous to be outwardly emotional. The pain is real, family or not and she meant a lot to you. I’m sorry you didn’t get the promised time to be by her side… I guess it’s natural to feel upset when what was expected of a promise has changed. I hope the memory of her stays with you forever.

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  2. abby says:

    I know you know this….you were there for Sarah when it really mattered…at those card games, quilting….I am reading this at 3 AM…i cannot sleep thinking about my mom…i get it…i so get it…
    HUGS..abby

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  3. Renee says:

    Ana, the people that we do life with are as much family as those we were born to. Sometimes the people who touch our lives are more like family than blood family. Sara knows you were there and how much you care. She is so grateful you sat with her whether quietly or full of conversation. She knows you were there for her and that is the most important. She will always be with you in your memories and your spirit, she will never be truly gone. Allow yourself to grief and then begin to remember the beautiful things she left behind in your life. Blessings and hugs, R.

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  4. Irishey says:

    Big hugs, Ana. I don’t think we ever get to spend as much time with the people we truly want to spend time with. I also know there always is lots more brass to polish, if we look. 🙂

    Wish I could be “around” more right now, but I’m spread so thinly I’m coming apart at the seams. Umm. Ick. The noise and mess, strain and stress… egads, I’m starting to rhyme…

    Just wanted to stop by for a moment and let you know I’m thinking of you. As trite as it sounds, hang in there. Don’t be hard on yourself for wanting more, and only feel a little sorry for yourself that you can’t have it. You and Sara share a special friendship, and you get to carry the stamp of that with you forever.

    More hugs! 🙂

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  5. Katie says:

    Aww Ana… Sending you the biggest of hugs, Don’t be hard on yourself for wanting more time with Sara. You gave her what you could- your love, your presence, your friendship. You take away some important and beautiful memories. There is nothing easy about loss of those that we love and care about.

    I agree, Renee said this all so very beautifully. We are here for you. I am thinking of you! Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie

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  6. ameliahfaith says:

    Oh Ana,
    I can barely see through the tears in my eyes, my heart is just breaking for you. You are really a wonderful woman. I really understand talking to Sara in your head, I completely believe she heard you. I wish so desperately I could take at least some of your suffering but I know I can not. I can only be here for you and talk to you with my own head and heart. ❤ Amy

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  7. awesomesub says:

    Ana, I am so sorry that you could not have more time with Sara. I get that you thought crying for her might somehow be ridiculous, but I am so sure that crying for a loved friend can only be right and good. You care, so there can be nothing wrong in showing this. Sara will have felt and heard you. Imagine how much comfort you might have given her in this moment, holding her hand and showing her that she is not alone. I understand your pain (and also the frustration) so well and feel for you. Sending lots of positive energy,

    hugs

    Nina

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  8. Erzabet Bishop says:

    You went Ana. You went and that is more than some of us were able to do. My grandmother passed away estranged from family. I never knew what day she passed. I loved her well but because of stupid family issues, she withdrew and then it was too late. I often still dream about my visits there and how she would take me to daycare and feed me hotdogs and cut apples. The smell of her kitchen as she baked little rolls shaped into birds with raisins for eyes…the crocheted sweaters and the swat I got for asking what kind of cookie when one was offered to me one day. (that probably explains a lot…) I never stopped loving her and every time I pick up a crochet hook, I think of her and smile.

    Bless you Ana for your love and caring and all that you do for the people around you. Nothing can ease the hollow heart except love if you have the courage to do so. You are a brave soul and have endured much. Love hurts but it also heals…<3

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