What kind of magic allows the terminally ill, struggling through their last breaths, tied to a machine dispensing enough morphine to quiet their heart, mind, and soul to become lucid, saying goodbye to the ones they love? In connection we find strength. I lost my grandfather three years ago. Watching his life and experiencing the way he treated me left a mark, an intricate map in my mind. Allowing me to learn from his experiences and apply his lessons. We got a call explaining he would pass shortly, and headed to the hospital. My mom went in first, sadly he was hunched over, silenced by his pain, and unable to communicate with her. Me and my brother were next expecting our goodbyes to be one sided. As we came in grandpa had lurched himself vertical, as if he knew he needed to see us one last time. He was present. The three of us said how much we loved each other and James and I thanked him for all of the memories we had created together. Our father wasn’t always capable and our grandfather took on that roll when necessary. We told him how grateful we were for him to take that responsibility with grace. James held one of his hands and I held the other creating a cross between the three of us with his arms. If he wasn’t able to speak we would have both known how much he loved us by the way he held our hands.
With tears all around I asked “is anyone else in the room waiting to guide you away?” Without hesitation, he looked just past my left ear and told me “my wife and brother are here”. The most peaceful and reassuring thing I’ve heard. He passed shortly after our goodbyes.
He left behind a watch, which I wear each day. It gives me confidence, reminds me to sit up straight and treat people with respect as my grandfather did. More meaningful than the watch was an experience I had meditating. I was scrolling YouTube, curious about meditative guides. I found one that could “connect you with spirit guides”. I was skeptical, but in all honesty, bored looking to pass time. I’d had luck with guided meditations allowing me to access unique corners of my vivid imagination and kill an hour or so of free time. A calming and well-spoken narrator helped me fully relax and enter my mind’s eye. I was told to imagine the characteristics i’d find most suitable for my spirit guide. Mulling it over for a moment, I decided the virtues of my grandfather would suffice. After visually placing those virtues into an imaginary container I was transported to another place in my mind. It was a dimly lit room, in the center was a rotary telephone. It rang, I answered. Suddenly in the right corner of the room was my grandfather sitting in his favorite chair. I asked him shocked “you came back?” and with the same smile I always loved he said, “I never left”. We had a small conversation. I asked him for guidance through some trying times I had been facing. He said what I needed to hear, more than fit to be my guide.
I felt a connection with my grandfather I never had before. He was stoic and reserved. Only speaking when necessary, and with utmost respect. I lost him too soon. I hadn’t yet built the confidence to express myself honestly and fully to anyone but close friends. Our connection outside the physical is deep, personal, and only mine. The space I have for him now contrasts what we had when he was alive. It’s safe and honest. Some years have passed since this experience. I don’t visit him for council often anymore. It feels like he has taken a step back, transitioning into a new existence. Still. When I need my grandfather, he will be there, like he never left.
Death is harrowing, it guts you. Lonely, chaotic, and unfair. With intention it can become beautiful. I urge everyone grieving, keep an open mind, heart, and soul. I’m not claiming the dead are in the ether, lingering, waiting for a call. I am claiming within the intricate expanses of our minds, you can find the marks your loved ones have left. They are eloquent, charming. A vast resource for loss, confusion and celebration. Beauty lies just outside of our understanding. It is our responsibility to be brave, gaze upon these mysteries without questions or judgment.