Some Reflections About Nan’s Final Days

Last night before I went skating, I was on South Street and I decided to cross the South Street Bridge over to Penn’s Landing. As I was walking, this thought struck me: on 25 January, it’ll be 9 years since Nan passed. She passed on a very snowy day in 2013 and mom, dad, and the hospice nurse urged me to go, be with friends. I spent two days with Nan and they weren’t very restful nights; I used to sleep with Nan and had slept with her for 20 years at that point, it felt weird sleeping without her in her bed. I was also terrified that I would awake the next morning, go downstairs, and find her dead. I also checked on her every hour through the night. Her breathing was labored since she had lung cancer, but she pulled through.

I was supposed to see a band perform in Philadelphia with Christine on the evening of 25 January. Mom, dad, and the hospice nurse told me to go and enjoy, it’s best if I am not there to watch the journey. I felt guilty, but I didn’t want to watch Nan died and I kept my plans. Before I went to Philadelphia, I said my goodbyes to Nan, hugged and kissed her, and cried. I was crying on the high speed line and that day was so hazy.

The only parts of that evening I remember were going to Christine’s in Bridesburg, we took the bus and it was blizzard like conditions. The band was playing on South Street, but we caught the 25 bus from Frankford Station to Penn’s Landing and we could cross the bridge. It was so hard to walk in the snow, but once we made it to the bridge and crossed over, we settled in and watched the band. After, we went to a bar, Christine met a man and we went back to his house. She hooked up with him and I watched TV until around 1am when mom called me to tell me that Nan passed. Christine overheard me crying, and both her and the gentleman came over and consoled me. The next morning he took us both to breakfast and I was in a haze coming home.

I felt guilty about this up until last week. I felt awful for not being there when Nan died and with someone who wasn’t really a friend to begin with, in a strange place because she wanted to hook up, and left me be. As much as I didn’t want to see Nan die, I would have rather been there.

However, a good friend and I were chatting. She’s in her 70s and imparted some wisdom to me. When her father was dying, the hospice nurse told her, “when you are around, it’s hard for the dying person to let go. They don’t want to let go when their family is grieving and around, it’s hard to let go. They often go when the loved ones are asleep because it’s easier.” She also added, “Nan loved you and cared about you so much, if you would have stayed, she would have lingered on. She didn’t want to let go and that was evident when you were there for those two nights. That is why you were urged to go.” I thought about it and it makes sense. I was so deep in grief when Nan was dying that it could have been explained to me like that, but I wasn’t hearing it. I had to go so Nan could pass over to the next plain of existence. The guilt I have felt since the end of January 2013 washed over me.

Last night when I walked that bridge, it was cold and still sunny. I felt light and at peace, Nan’s guiding spirit next to me. She has never left my side. I may not be able to see her, but I feel her. The view from the bridge was gorgeous, and the path to the ice skating rink was breathtaking, as always.

I’m feeling more at peace. While I wish she was still here, while I wish she could meet Tommy and see how happy we are for the most part, while I wish she could see how I’m doing at both jobs and everything else going on in my life, I know I will never see her in the physical sense again. However, I know she is here with me in spirit and she’s smiling wherever she is.

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Creator of the Happiness Box Project Initiative, a project where you write your happiness or gratitude each day, then open the box in the New Year. The Initiative is to teach joy and gratitude, to pass it on to others.

3 thoughts on “Some Reflections About Nan’s Final Days”

  1. This is ForeverDreamer.

    I wanted to let you know that reading this helps me with guilt that I have felt about not being there when my mother died. Thank you.


  2. Hi, Jessica Marie!

    This is a beautiful story to share as you enter the week marking 9 years since Nan passed away. I know how you feel. I was a thousand miles away when my father died and often wish I had been there by his side back in York when the time came for him to depart. In my mother’s case , my dad and I had been at her bedside in the ICU all day and evening until visiting hours ended. We went home, went to bed and were awakened by a call from the hospital around 1 am, the same time you were notified about Nan, telling us that my mother had died. Perhaps it is as your 70-something friend suggested, that our loved ones don’t want to let go as long as we are near. Only when we are separated and/or asleep do they allow themselves to slip away. I think it is a beautiful metaphor that you were crossing a bridge through a snowstorm on the way to a strange new place that night in 2013 at the same time Nan was crossing the bridge to a dimension that we cannot fathom. It is also empowering that you have forgiven yourself for not being there with her that night and that you returned to that bridge and found peace.

    Have a safe and healthy week, dear friend JM, if not a particularly happy one.


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