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May the Road Rise to Meet You…

April 11, 2012

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.
~Traditional Irish Saying

Seven years ago, on a Palm Sunday, I received a phone call that my grandmother had suffered a brain bleed. I hurried my then 9 month old son into the car and drove the 600 miles back to her bedside. For seven years she lived in various nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. In that time she attended my wedding and the baptisms of my two younger daughters born since that day. She also got to know my younger sister’s new husband. Seven years after her initial illness, on Easter Sunday, she returned home to God.

In the Bible, the number seven is seen as a sign of completion. From Seven days to make the world to Seven signs signaling the end of the world. One has to wonder if seven years, separated on the Church calendar by the seven days of Holy Week must mean something for my Grandmother. Seven years to complete her journey.

How can you sum up a whole life on one conversation? It’s simple and it’s complex. She was love and loyalty. She was the embodiment of the Claddagh- the traditional Irish symbol for love, loyalty and friendship. She loved her family and friends fiercely. She was quick with a smile or a joke. She was easy to talk to. She was just what you would hope a grandmother could be.

I remember distinctly when we announced that I was pregnant with my first born. She was easily the most excited great-grandmother you could have ever met. She was beyond thrilled at his birth, holding her first great-grandchild in her arms. She adored each of them and got the chance to cradle each of her three great-grandchildren in her arms.

She spent summers relaxing on the beach and winters enjoying cups of coffee and lunches with good friends. She watched her son grow up, shared precious time with her granddaughters, even a trip to Ireland with me a few years back. She got to know her great-grandbabies. Then she moved on. She completed her journey. It was a life well-lived and uninterrupted. It is the kind of life so many of us want for our own children- long, full, and happy.

At a time in my own life, when I am so filled with uncertainty for my own daughter, my grandmother’s life is a reminder of what we are hoping for- a long full life. So while I already miss her terribly, I can’t help but pour over the pictures my sister is assembling for her wake with a feeling of profound satisfaction. Because she did it. She did that thing that we all want to do. She lived. She finished it- she saw her journey to the end, and when she was done here, she left, peacefully and I believe contentedly.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
~Traditional Irish Blessing

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