*This is a continuation of prior posts. If you would like to read this meaty story from the beginning, please click on the following links below*
6.The Beginning of All Things To End
You ever hear the expression “don’t take anything for granted”? There are sadly many things in this world I have taken for granted. Time with loved ones sadly at the very top. There are many things in this world I want, a Lamborghini Huracan, an 82 inch TV, a really dope 11 speaker home theater system, a pair of Sony WH-1000 MX 3s, and many other things. While these are great things to have, they pale in comparison to something I wanted even more. I simply wanted more time with my nana. We’re not talking about my biological nana, because as sad as it was to lose her, I wasn’t all that close to her. I saw her yearly for the first 22 years of my life, but a language barrier prevented us from being able to talk to each other. The woman I am referring to was referenced briefly in the second part of the gargantuan love story. She is my fiancee’s nana, and she was the woman who would truly make me feel a part of the massive family she left behind. This a a continuation of this massive epic, but also an interlude to honor someone who makes this story that much more important.
She was born as Hilda M. Barrett, and eventually became Hilda McCarthy by way of marriage. She would have eight kids, one of which being the mother of my fiance.I remember sitting in the living room the day I met my fiancee’s family, and was completely floored by how sharp, witty, and animated she was for someone her age (87 at the time). I was even more floored by how sweet, and welcoming she was. I was this nervous wreck of a human being meeting both sides of the family two years ago, yet she truly made me feel like part of the family. When I asked her name, she told me I could either call her Hilda, or I could call her nana. I would learn later that she hated her name, and would much rather be called nana. It felt strange at first, because I had never referred to a non blood relative by a name meant for a blood relative. It took some time, but I got use to it.
Seeing nana became like many things in my life, just part of that routine I like to have in some aspects of my life. I remember driving up to their place in the evening, and could tell she was in the living room because I could see Wheel Of Fortune, or Jeopardy in the window as I pulled into the driveway. She was always super happy to see me, and was always extremely cheerful. Her high spirits were always enough to get me out of whatever funk I might have been in that day. Whenever my fiancee and I were cooking in the kitchen, she’d just cruise through with her favorite drinking glass for some water. She’d often comment on how good everything smelled, and wished she could partake. She had some eating restrictions that prevented her from consuming salt due to a hear condition. Every time we’d get ready to do one of my fiancee’s crazy workouts, I’d remember nana telling her not to go to hard on me.
One of the more touching moments we had while she was around came around the holidays. She gave me a tin of chocolates to share with my family. She said “welcome to my family”. It was pretty dope to know that a woman whom I saw as the matriarch of her family saw me as one of her own. Time would pass, and most days would follow the same routine. I really enjoyed just chatting with her whenever I walked by the living room. She would always be reading a book on her kindle while the “Easy Listening” channel on Music Choice played in the background. Everything about being around her just made me feel mellow, and relaxed. She was an extremely happy person who stayed in good spirits despite some minor health issues. Things were great with nana; I hoped that things would stay the same for a very long time. I hoped to always go to her living room, and see her there with a book on her kindle, and the Easy Listening channel in the background. She seemed like a woman full of wisdom, and looked forward to knowing her for a very long time. Sadly, all the good things in my life have this way of changing.
7. The Fall
Some time in the beginning of March 2018, I got a phone call from my fiancee saying her nana had a fall, and broke her hip. I just remember her sounding hysterical. She got the call from her parents while she was away on a snowboard trip. She recalls hearing her nana screaming pain. I just remembered my heart sinking several feet to the ground. People her age don’t usually handle falls very well. I kept her in my prayers, and things seemed to be getting slightly better. She seemed to be in good spirits once her pain was managed. Unfortunately, the accident had damaged an artery, and she started to bleed internally. The doctors took measures to save her life which resulted in her having a stroke.
She would spend the next few months getting rehabilitated before going home. I visited her once, and she seemed to be in good spirits as always. I was happy just to know she was alive, and well. I gave her a rosary made from the ropes they use in fishnets. When she came home, I gave her a picture of the Holy Family which I found in a Catholic book store. The Holy Family had been with me through some anxiety induced lows, so I found it fitting to give them to her, so that they may help her on her long road to recovery. The next few months would be rough. I was barely able to see her as she was often exhausted from the grueling therapy she had to endure to regain her speech. She could barely walk, and she couldn’t speak much. It was saddening to go over the house, and see those living room doors closed. Just a few months ago I’d peek in, and say hello as she’d do the usual; read a book on her kindle while she listened to the same easy listening station.
Month later, she would live at her other daughter’s house since she was able to get more around the clock care. It was painful seeing that living room empty. Every time I walked into that house, it felt as if something was missing. I took so much for granted with her. I missed seeing her walk through the kitchen; I missed seeing her in her favorite recliner, kindle in hand, listening to the same Easy Listening station; I missed her witty remarks; I missed her presence; I missed her cheerfulness. It felt as if that stroke as sucked much of the life out of her. I felt pretty heart broken at times. I hoped, and payed that she would come back from this, and that things would go back to the way they were.
During the month of July, there was a glimmer of hope. I went to my fiancee’s aunt’s place to see nana for the first time in a while. I was happy to see her walk out in her walker with close to the same youthful energy she had prior to her stroke. Though she still had minor speech issues, it felt like we were getting close to having the old nana back. There was hope for once that things would go back to the way they were. I always hoped for more time, and it felt as if those prayers were being answered. Unfortunately, her health would begin to slowly decline over the next few months. The stroke, and the recovery had taken a massive toll on her. The last time I had a decent conversation with her was in the beginning of September. She would go back to a rehabilitation center as her worsening condition required more around the clock care. She was doing alright, but unfortunately time was getting shorter. Before I get to the next part of this story, I have to go on a necessary tangent.
8. The Ring
Over the summer when I told my mother of my intentions to marry my love, my mother told me of a ring she obtained from a friend for when that day came. A few days later, I would be driving with two close friends when I let them know I was planning on marrying her. They were both ecstatic, and started asking questions about the ring. My finance gave me two simple rules to abide by when buying this ring.
-I wasn’t allowed to spend more than $100 on the ring.
-The ring could not have any diamonds on it.
With this being said, a friend suggested that I get a ring with her birth stone on it. Her birthstone was an amethyst which looks super pretty. A few days later, my mother would show me the ring, and my sister would identify the stone as an amethyst. It was too perfect to be a coincidence, and I saw this as God’s way of saying yes to me marrying her. With the ring in hand, it was a matter of when to propose. I would pray about this constantly for the next few months. I eventually met with a good friend of mine who would give me tips on a good proposal. He suggested I get the ring polished at a jeweler. The polish cost me $30 while the resizing cost me $65 thus keeping me under $100; It was pure providence.
With the ring in hand, it was time to do the very thing that had been spiking my nerves for a while. I had to get the blessings of her family before going ahead with the proposal. I also wanted to get the blessings of her nana as well since I saw her as the family matriarch. It was always a matter of when. I had to find a way to pull the feat off without my now fiancee knowing. There was almost no time to do it, and the few windows I had, I squandered them out of fear. I had her mother’s number, and could’ve came up at any time to ask; My nerves ALWAYS got the best of me. Asking her nana was even harder, because she wasn’t living at the house. She lived that the care center, so that made things tougher. I knew I would have to ask eventually, but I needed to grow some balls. Unfortunately, I would get the push I needed in the worst way possible.
9. The End of All Things to Come
On a dark dreary Thursday in October, I felt pretty crummy. The work day had me feeling super burnt out, and I was exhausted. By 4 pm, I was ready for the day to end. I felt pretty meh, but I was about to get one of the worst phone calls I have gotten in my years of living. My fiancee isn’t one to call midday, but when she did, I knew it was important. When I answered the call, I could hear her sobbing uncontrollably. I knew something was wrong, and I wasn’t ready for what she had to tell me. Nana had been moved to hospice care. One of the first telltale signs that someone is at death’s door is that they lose the ability to swallow. Her health had been deteriorating, and fluids constantly filled her lungs. My heart sank deeper than the Titanic on a bad day. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
I started freaking the fuck out. I wanted more time with nana, and I wanted to get her blessing. One of the fears I had in the beginning of the relationship was nana passing away before I could make my intentions of marrying her granddaughter known to her. It felt as if that fear was being realized. I spent all this time being a wuss about asking for blessings, and now I was on borrowed time. At any moment, she could pass, and I’d never have a chance to know if I had her blessing. I knew she loved me as much as her own grandchildren, but I was more comforting to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Later that evening, I would pray for St Joseph to be with her in her time of need. St Joseph is the patron saint of the dying in part because at the time of death, he was surrounded by his family (Jesus, and Mary).
The next day after meeting with my clients, I would start a three hour trek from Norwood to Haverhill in rush hour traffic. If there was a worse time to be stuck in traffic, it was in a moment where the window to say good bye to nana was getting shorter, and shorter by the second. I fought my way through traffic to eventually get to the hospice. I would be greeted by my love who would take me to her room where she was surrounded by loved ones. On one of the tables in the room was the picture of The Holy Family that I bought her. She cherished that photo, and made sure it was with her where ever she went. Seeing that photo there was a sign the my prayer was answered.
I was told that she spent most of her time sleeping, but that she could hear you if you got up close to her. It was now, or never, and I realized it was time to make my intentions known. I had to man up, and do it with the little time I had left. At this point, I didn’t expect a response, but I still wanted to tell her that I was marrying her granddaughter. I went up to her, and made my intentions known; that I planned on marrying her granddaughter, and that would like to get her blessing. She raised herself up with the little strength she had left to say “of course”, and “I’m so happy”. It would be the last time I ever heard her voice.
The next few visits to the hospice, she would remain unconscious. The same Easy Listening station she constantly played in the living room would be on in the background. It was pretty fitting, and for the first time in a while, she seemed very peaceful. Losing a loved one is one of the most emotionally exhausting things I’ve ever had to experience. It’s also one of the few times you will see the true togetherness of a family. Nana always went out of her way to make me feel like a part of the family. It was in those darkest moments that it hit me; her family was my family. In those moment, I was adamant that this was the family I wanted to marry into. Death is tough, because nothing you say can mend broken hearts. My love would go from being alright, to crying, to being alright, followed by more crying.
Nana passed away on October 11th in the early hours of the morning. We would get the phone call while we were on vacation in San Diego. We never made the funeral, and we have yet to visit the burial site. I miss nana every single day. On Sunday, two days before we left for San Diego, I said goodbye to her. I wish I didn’t say goodbye, goodbye seems so final. What I really wanted to say is thank you, thank you for being so welcoming, thank you for lighting up my stormy days, thank you for treating me like one of your own. I’m going to miss pulling up to the house, seeing one of your favorite shows on the huge TV in the living room, and knowing you were there. I’m going to miss chatting with you about random things. I’m going to miss when I was about to undergo one of my fiancee’s torturous workouts, and you’d say “don’t be too hard on him now”.
I wish I had more time. I wish I got to know you for longer than I did. I wish many others got to know you. The world needs more people like you, and I hope I can be even half the person you were. I wish I didn’t have to talk about you in the past tense so soon, but it is what it is. Life happens, and you gotta roll with the hits, even the sucker punches.
See you later nana! I promise to make you proud.