My great uncle Martin was dying. He was 99-years-old and his life was interesting and full, and he’d probably tell you he was ready to go. But his younger brother Bud wanted to see him one last time. It would take Bud, who is 86, six days to drive from Minnesota to Martin’s home in California. But Martin waited for Bud and died peacefully just a few hours after seeing him one last time.
I always loved how Martin called his sister Bea (my grandma) each night before she went to bed. And the night she died (at the age of 100), Martin called her to say goodnight, one last time.
It’s remarkable my relatives have anti-aging super powers, that they stay healthy and happy until the end. But what strikes me most is how my grandma and Martin put off their deaths, if only for a little while, so they could say goodbye. It isn’t particularly convenient to wait for someone when you are busy dying, but it’s astonishing what a person can do for someone who matters. My grandma and her siblings made each other matter – it was always that way. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard it. But more than anything, I’ve felt it.
My grandma Bea lived next to her youngest sister Bobbie for what seemed like forever. Wherever Bea was, Bobbie was. And the affection they had for one another was there to the very end. Bobbie was there to hold Bea’s hand when she took her very last breath. Bobbie made us all cry-laugh when she remarked sweetly, “Look! All her wrinkles are gone. It almost seems worth it.” And she coiffed her dearly departed sister’s hair – just as she had done every week for 20 years – because you know, you want to look your best at Heaven’s gate.
In an email last week, my 87 year old great aunt Bobbie told me she’ll miss her brother Martin a lot. That they called one another every morning at 10:30. That she held his hand every day in the final week of his life. That she’s happy to live near her siblings, on the same road as the cemetery where they now rest in peace.
I cherish my super-sweet relatives. They remind me that life shows up in simple, loving gestures, that there’s nothing more important than our love for one another.