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For my beautiful mother and friend, Patricia Byrne, who passed 08/09/2004 at the age of 64 from PC

Essay that my daughter wrote about her grandmother.

Forty-Nine Days

 “Six months to a year,” my mother said, quoting the doctor
with the crystal ball. “The cancer spread to her liver.”  She paused,
“We’re lucky we have the chance to say goodbye.”
The words rang in my head.  Death was not lucky I thought to myself.
“Hello,” my mother’s voice came through shakily, “Erin, are you okay?
“Yeah I’m here.  I’m okay,” I lied. My voice was quivering as well.  I
could feel my face get hot as the tears began flowing.  “Is she in pain?”
“The medication helps,” she replied, “but mornings are always easier for
her. Why don’t you stop by?”
“I will.”  There was a long silence. “I love you mom.”
“I love you too.”
I hung up the phone and sat still for several moments.  A feeling of anger
overwhelmed me as I realized I should have spent more time with her.  I
knew I had let the chaos of life interfere with those things that really,
truly mattered.  I got ready to leave.
Sitting outside my grandmother’s house, not remembering the drive, I tried
to calm myself before entering.  I fanned my eyes as I walked through the
grass to the back door, taking a deep breath before entering.  The kitchen
was empty, and the usual aroma of grandma’s cooking had vanished.  I took
another breath and tried to make my hands stop shaking.  She was resting
on her favorite chair in the living room wearing her favorite pink
pajamas.  She opened her eyes.
“Morning Gram,” I said softly, “How are you feeling?”
“I could use a hug,” she replied with a smirk.
I smiled and went to her.  She was warm to the touch and the back of her
neck was damp.  Everything else in the world had suddenly seemed to
change, but her smile was the same.
“I love you,” I whispered in a trembling voice, trying to hold back the
tears. “I love you too honey,” she whispered back as she studied my face.
“It’s okay to cry,” she continued as the tears began rolling down her
cheeks.  “I’m glad we can cry together, it shows how much we care.”  She
paused for a moment, “I feel like I’ve ruined everyone’s day.  I’ve never
felt so loved.”
“You are grandma,” I sobbed. “I don’t want you to go.”  My pitch got
higher and my heart began to race.  We held each other close, never
wanting to let go. “One of the things I’ll miss the most is not being at
your wedding,” she said.  I let out another sob and tightened my grip as
if she were about to disappear.  She whispered, “I’ll be there in spirit.”
 I was speechless.  The idea of her death had not fully registered until
that moment.
“Help your mom get through this,” she said.  “She thinks she has to be so
strong, but she isn’t.  Don’t let her fool you.”
“I will,” I promised.
“It’s probably my fault,” she went on, “She never really had a mother.”
She looked around and sighed.  “What’s done is done,” she said under her
breath. “Are you scared?” I asked, trying to change the subject.  “I’m a
little shocked actually,” she chuckled, “I haven’t had much time to think
about it.  Enjoy every day you got kid, it seems like yesterday I was your
Something so simple had never made so much sense.  “Enjoy every day you
That night the family gathered for grandma’s specialty, chicken and mashed
potatoes, except this time we ordered it from K.F.C.  Everyone ate in the
living room, just like we do on Christmas.  There were tears, but somehow
the laughter shined through.  I could not help but stare at her, trying
desperately to soak up the moment.  She was beautiful; her smile lit up
the room.  I can still hear her laughter. My grandmother passed away only
forty-nine days after she was diagnosed with cancer.  Although it was
painful, those forty-nine days are among my fondest memories.  When I feel
myself taking life a little too serious, I remember her words. “Enjoy

every day you got kid, seems like yesterday I was your age.” 

Posted 10/01/2007 01:33 pm by PaulaM
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