This past Monday, my grandmother died.
It wasn’t unexpected, but at the same time, it was sudden. Just a few hours before she died I had IM’d with my dad and really thought that she might make it until my planned visit home in May. I thought I’d get to see her one last time. But Mum (that’s what I called my grandmother) had other plans. And I’m grateful that she went on her own terms.
Despite only recently becoming an expat, I haven’t actually lived in my hometown, where everyone else in my family resides, since I went away to graduate school way too many years ago. The amount of actual face time I get during the course of a year with those I love amounts to, at most, maybe a month. I’ve learned to make that time count.
This past Christmas, I had a feeling it might be the last time I saw Mum alive. Now, whenever I visited Mum I always gave her a kiss and an “I love you” before I left. That last visit was no different, except that after I kissed her, said “I love you” and started to leave, I stopped, went back to her and did it all one more time. And I’m so glad I did.
As I reflect on my relationship with my grandmother, I think that it might have been made even stronger because of the miles between us. Because I lived out of town, I got in the habit of calling her nearly every Sunday. Sometimes the conversations were just a couple of minutes long and I’d let her complain about being bored and getting old. But we also had some really interesting conversations that other members of my family might find surprising – including in depth discussions of gay marriage and healthcare reform. For real.
Every time one of our Sunday calls was about to end I would say to Mum, “I love you” and she would always reply “I love you more.” And that would always make me smile.
I’m going to miss those Sunday conversations, just as I am going to miss everything about my grandmother. But I’m lucky I had her in my life for as long as I did, and I will carry her love in my heart as I continue on my crazy Irish adventure.