Yesterday evening, I received a phone call that made me fall to my knees and cry. I knew this call would come. That wasn’t the surprise. I guess I just hadn’t expected to receive the call so soon.
And even if I had expected that my phone would ring at that exact hour, my reaction would have been the same. Longing. Longing for more.
One more hug. One more kiss. One more I love you.
Just one more.
But that one more would never be enough. Because when we love someone, we don’t want to have just one more of anything. We want lots more. We want to be with them. Here and now. With them.
But, that is not how life works. This life is temporary. We all have a guarantee that one day will be our last. We don’t know when that day will come, but it will. And when it does, our loved ones will fall to the ground longing for more.
But that pain that makes the body crumple and the tears flow is, for me, often times accompanied by another emotion. An emotion that seems contrary to, but somehow compliments, the heartache.
That emotion is hard to describe, but the closest word I have for it would be peace.
Peace in knowing that the one I love is truly in a better place. Peace knowing that there is no more pain. Peace knowing there is no more suffering. Peace knowing that they are now at home.
One of my favorite movies is Inside Out. I love how it describes the developing emotions of a young girl going through significant change in her life. In the beginning, her emotions are simple. She would feel each of her emotions independent from one another. As she grows and changes, her emotions become more complex. By the end, it is not just the isolated emotion of joy that she feels, or the isolated emotion of sadness, but instead a beautiful combination of the two.
This is how I felt in that crumpled moment. I felt an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness in knowing I would never see my grandma again on earth, and at the same time a peace that all was how it should be.
My grandmother, Marjorie Alice (Hill) Lohman, who we all lovingly called Gammy, was 95 years old. 95 years wonderful. 95 years wise. 95 years stubborn. And 95 years well loved.
She was the master of the English language and taught me at a young age that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. If she ever heard me say, “Where is it at?” She would yell, “Right before the AT!”
She knew the way things once were, and the way she believed they should still be, and she wasn’t afraid to let you know. A man should take off his hat when he walks in the door, and a hat should under no circumstance be worn at the dinner table. Hands should never be washed in the kitchen sink. A table should always be set for dinner, even if you were just having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And when you set the table, you better set it properly.
She loved reading, knitting, and the game show channel. She strongly disliked commercials and muted them instantly. She loved wine spritzers (after 5:00 of course), bridge, golf, good food with good friends (no spice, please), and the occasional trip to the casino. And with the exception of golf, did all of these things until the very end of her life.
She was an artist. A teacher. A wife. A mother. A grandmother. A friend. She was my Gammy.
Gammy spent her summers up north at her lake home on Walloon Lake, Michigan. When I think of the Lohman family, I think of Walloon. Gammy would spend her summers there, and the rest of us would come and go throughout those months. She would have a revolving door of family members. As one family would leave, another would arrive. We would enter her home with the anticipation of another week spent at Walloon. We would bring with us our bags, our noise, our chaos, our joy, and most of all our love.
When the week, or two, or more if we were really lucky, had come to an end we would gather our belongings into the car and prepare for another trip home. Knowing we would return again next year. Those who still remained would all gather on the front lawn to wave goodbye.
A week spent at Walloon would always come and go quickly, as most times spent in the company of loved ones at a special location do. And even though the promise of next summer was ahead of us, that did not take away from the difficulty of saying goodbye.
With the car packed, we would all kiss and hug. Inevitably, some would cry. Those fortunate enough to have had their vacation, but unfortunate enough that it was now over, would pile into the car to make the trip home. The cottage sits on a giant oval, like a track. With two cottages on one side and two on the other. Those who were leaving would make their way around the curve, and when they came to the straightaway they would honk and wave. This was our tradition. Gammy would always be front and center waiting for this ritual to take place. Sometimes she would even yell, “don’t forget to honk!”, as if any of us ever would forget.
For as long as I can remember, whenever someone drove away, tears would well up in Gammy’s eyes. She would stand there while the car turned off of Hamilton Court, and watch it until it could be seen no more, and then she would turn and say, “Oh shoot.”
She went out in style. She had just started hospice care and was told she had up to two months to live. Anyone who knows Gammy knows she loves a good party. So, that is what her kids decided to do. They were going to throw her a party. She was taken out of hospice and brought to my dad’s house. We all gathered to tell her we love her. It was her living wake. Why wait until someone dies to throw a party?
That night, when she was brought back to the facility and tucked into bed, I was told that she told the nurse that she “had made peace with everyone.”
The next day, I was informed that hospice had changed their time frame from two months to two days. A few hours later, I got the call that she passed. She was surrounded by the people she loved most in this world, her four children.
She had her party, and she was ready to go home.
I can picture all of us standing on the lawn waving, and this time it is her turn to drive away. I know she honked. I know she waved. I know she smiled. I know she was ready to go.