Tri-Umphant Living

Fly Me to the Moon

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“We need clothes for the funeral,” Zoe said.

“I know, Lovie. I’m on it.”

“I can wear my concert clothes,” said Brayden.

“Yes. I was thinking that.”

“But Elias is sick. When will you shop? ” He added. “I don’t think I have anything he can borrow that will fit him.”

“It will be okay, Honey. I promise.”

“I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too.”

A Month Ago:

“I’m tired, Jess.”

“I know, Grandma.”

“I just don’t have the energy I used to have. I don’t even want to make my bed anymore. Can you imagine?! I’ve been making it for my whole life. I’m 86-years-old and I don’t want to do it anymore.”

“Well, I’m 44 and I don’t want to make mine either. Maybe you skip it sometime? I often do.”

“No. I can’t. I have to do it.” I don’t like getting old. I didn’t think it was going to be like this. It’s depressing, Jess. I hate it.”

“I’m sorry, Grandma. I hate it too. Although like Grandpa says, ‘It’s better than the alternative!’ Plus, you’ve only been talking about being old for my entire life, Grandma!”

“I’m afraid of dying. I don’t want to die, Jess.”

“I’m afraid of dying too, Gram. And I don’t want you to die. I can’t even think about it.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t be afraid? I mean I already died once you know.”

“I know. You died in my arms, Gram.”

“And then I came back.”

Yes. You did. Grandpa and I were holding hands and we were crying. I was whispering in your ear that it was okay. And I watched you leave your body. You sank inside of yourself and then you were gone.”

“And then I came back.”

“You did.”

“Ah, ha-ha-ha!” She laughs in her cackle-laugh way. “So maybe I won’t be afraid. It really wasn’t bad at all … ah, ha-ha-ha!”

“You didn’t seem to mind.” I laugh with her.

“No … You know, I don’t think I minded at all. Not at all. Maybe I’m not scared anymore.”

“Maybe not. I hope not. I love you, Grandma.”

Last Wednesday, January 11, 2017, my grandmother passed away unexpectedly. She died in her sleep next to my grandfather. This February they’d have been married for 67 years. I told my grandpa I was going with 67 not 66. In my book, if you’ve been together for that many years, you count the extra month and few days. No questions asked. To know that she died while sleeping next to her husband makes my heart ache less. I’m grateful she had her closest person with her when she left us.

That morning, my father called me. He never calls on a workday morning and I knew something was wrong. I was in our local pharmacy when he called. I didn’t even need to hear his words as he gently spoke them to me. I walked around the corner from the checkout and sank to the carpet, letting out a primitive sob that sounded like it was coming from some other-world creature. One of the many benefits of a Mom & Pop pharmacy is that they know us. I was brought water and helped up from the floor. I was ushered to my car and given all of the medications I was waiting for with a wave of the hand and words that meant something like, “Don’t even worry about it. You’ll pay whenever you pay. It’s not important.” I called Rob and then made plans to meet my father in Connecticut that day.

I’m not sure why, but almost immediately after I learned of her passing, Frank Sinatra’s, “Fly Me To the Moon” popped into my head. I sent it to Rob and my Dad and I shared it with a friend.

“Did your grandmother like that song, Jess?” she asked.

“I don’t know. But I like it.” I played it on repeat during my hour drive.

The next morning my grandfather and I sat at his kitchen table. He drank his coffee brewed in the percolator and we cried together. “She was my whole life, Jess.”

“Yes. She was. She was your whole life. You didn’t do anything without thinking of one another. You were a beautiful team. I’m grateful I got to experience it.”

“Yes. We were a team. She was my whole life.”

She truly was.

Later, as we sat together, I picked up my phone while my grandpa watched in quiet wonder. I told him how I couldn’t stop singing this song and asked if I could play it. Together, we sang along with Frank and he remembered all of the words. We cried as we sang and he choked on the words of the last line. I held his hand. When it was over, I listened to my grandfather tell stories of how they’d met. They were 16 years old. They met at the Salem Willows in Massachusetts and they shared a Pepsi.

“Did you know?”

“Oh I knew!” He declared with gusto.

I marveled at the idea of sharing a soda with someone. Imagining him dressed all dapper in a tie and a hat and her dressed to the nines.

My dad and I stayed up into the wee hours of the night last Wednesday. We tucked my grandpa into his bed alone as he both cried and assured us he was okay. Together we sat and reminisced about life. Laughing. Crying. It’s been years since my dad and I enjoyed each other’s company like that. The beautiful gift my grandmother left was an opportunity for me and my father to embrace life together. I never knew a heart could grieve and feel so full at the same time.

Sometimes my grief feels so awful I think I can’t bear it and then as I always do, I gain my strength from other people. People living their lives bravely. Showing up. I look at my children and my own life partner and I know that I am blessed. Life has felt so scary sometimes and health like a flame ready to be extinguished at any moment — I can only hope that I will have such a long, full life with Rob. The idea of death makes me want to live my life to the fullest. To not miss a single moment of it — getting stuck in the minutiae. I want to live a life I can embrace without regret. I want to feel the joy of being alive.

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like on
A-Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, baby, kiss me
Fill my heart with song and let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you
Fill my heart with song
Let me sing for ever more
You are all I long for, all I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words
In other words
I love you

4 replies »

  1. Beautifully written, and somehow, between the words you’ve shared and the back and forth of the conversation, and obviously the sentiment sprinkled between every syllable, it feels so much like I both ache with love for your grandmother, and mourn the loss of her generous life force in all of your lives. She clearly was well-loved, and will be missed. So sorry for your loss. I hope you’ll be able to hold on to the beauty behind “a heart that can grieve and feel so full at the same time” as you begin to navigate the process of mourning the loss of this very special person in your life.

    That song will not only be playing in my head today (and many days to come), but will now always make me think of your grandmother every time I hear it. “In other words ……”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a beautiful tribute, not just to your grandma but to love itself. My grandparents were married 67 years when my grandpa died 3 years ago and today my grandma turns 93 without him. Like you, I hope to have that kind of love and longevity with my husband and to be surrounded by loved ones.

    A friend of mine recently lost her grandma and wrote, “But the most extraordinary thing about knowing your grandparents as an adult is that you come to know them as people. They aren’t just the ones who let you eat cookies past your bedtime or think you played the recorder the best during the school performance. You are able to see their complexities of character, understand sacrifices they made, and come to appreciate them as the people everyone else around you knows them as.”

    I keep thinking of her words and how blessed we are when we show up and know people, really know them. You’re such a good role model for that. Much love to you Jessica and I’m sending you a long distance hug!

    Liked by 2 people

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