In the first moments alone with the realization that yesterday my grandmother took her last breath, my clearest memory of her flooded my mind. The image I had was of her outstretched arms reaching to hold my face in her hands. Her face was wide open as if she could engulf me in her smile. A kiss sat ready on her lips as she pulled me towards her and kissed my face. Her greeting was never complete until she had held me face just inches from her round full face and absorbed my round full face into her smiling eyes.
In all my visits with my grandmother I watched as a twinkle went straight from her heart to her eyes at the mere mention of those she loved. Her expressive hands would reach out almost as if in a reflective memory of holding their face in her hands. Her eyes were a transparent in a way that offered a clear view into the delightful love she had for each of her grandchildren.
The last time I saw her she was already starting to say good-bye, as if she knew that her memory of me would slip away in the years to come.
I wasn’t there when my parents visited her with pictures of me and my family to share with her after the dementia set in. Each time my parents showed her a picture of my youngest daughter she chimed, “Oh, its Kayla!” My parents showed her pictures of me with my children and still she pointed to my youngest child and declared, “Oh, its Kayla!” She no longer remembered me as an adult, but she remembered the child she loved and saw me in the face of my little one.
I wasn’t there, but I can image the scene. I can picture her face brimming with the love that only a grandmother knows. I can see her hands reaching for the face of my daughter ready to engulf her.
My grandmother’s voice always said, “Come in, come in” each time we went to visit her, but it was her continence that said the rest. Her open arms said, “You are welcome here.” The kisses she landed on my face said, “You are loved.” Her smile said, “You are special.” The twinkle in her eyes said, “You delight me.” Her round open face said, “You belong to me, we are family.”
She didn’t remember me in the end, but I will always have an image of my grandmother in her house dress welcoming me into her home.
I can only hope that I will carry on her welcoming ways in my smile.