Yesterday’s post had an asterisk on “..a person they’d just seen.” I forgot, after adding that, to explain it. We took all three girls to visit Daddy Norm (Sean’s grandfather) at the nursing home. We had no idea how much time was left and it certainly wasn’t easy (a 6, 4 and 2 year old in a nursing home at the end of the day) but we did it.
They were gathered around his bed and spilling out of his room. We passed meal carts, laundry rollers and many, many strangers. The girls never blinked. They endured passing through the bracing wind into the suffocating, unfiltered heat and stale air of the building, to the oily air in the elevator all the while wearing their Adirondack bundles. They all but curtsied at the aides and nurses they were introduced to, never requiring us to cajole them. It became clear that they were as tuned in as we were that this trip needed to go smoothly, for someone.
We shuffled into the room, the dingy curtain marking the space between roommates hanging limply inches from him as he lay prone in bed, laboring. Finley went completely rigid, unwilling and unable to enter. “No, want to. No want to be in the room. Right now, no. Please no take me in the room. I want to stay now in the hall. Not. In. The. Room.” I honored her wish, but tried a few different ways of getting her in. Nothing doing.
Ave floated, content to perch at his feet and then flit to the hallway to talk to whoever might be out there, family or not. Finley ultimately assumed a position outside the room, gratefully entering the arms of whichever of us was standing outside. No one pushed, some universal trigger had been loosed and it was simply accepted that Fin was feeling what was happening in the room more keenly than any of the rest of us. I went to stand with Briar and found her completely independent. She stood at his bedside beaming. There was literally a light radiating from her.
“It’s ok. You are ok. We are here. We can stay. You are here and you are good, you are so good. And I can stay or I can come back, but right now we are together.” I stood rapt, her voice assuming a cadence beyond her years, the rhythm of her words soothing us all, while his one good eye watched her. I touched her shoulder, but she was undeterred. “Briar,” I whispered. She turned to me, her pale blue eyes meeting mine, and she smiled. “Are you ok, honey?” I asked. Her eyebrows furrowed as if she pitied me my confusion. “Yes, mama. I am just being with him,” and with that she turned back to him. “I am still here, right with you.”
I collapsed inside myself as I watched Briar draw from a well I never knew she had. She is so much more than sweet. Sitting at the bedside of a man her baby sister knew was dying, she offered everything inside herself and more. I came face to face with more emotional reserves in her than I have and I was not surprised, which shocked me. Right up until the moment we were zipping our coats, she stayed with him. Later, talking to her sister she said, “Ave, don’t worry, just let him be 63 in your mind forever.”
I think that on some level, Briar will forever be 6 in my mind, honoring the life of a 96 year old and accompanying him through one leg of his passing.
Grief shared is half grief; joy shared is double.
Children are astonishing and have so much to teach us, if we let them. I love the proverb at the end of your post.
Wow. Gave me goosebumps that little girl did. I will tell you one other thing – the sound of childrens’s voices can bring the elderly to their doorways just to catch a peak like no other thing. Well, okay, puppies compete. But in general – children and the innocence they bring are quite welcome in most nursing homes. What a wonderful reaction Briar had, you have to wonder what she will do with those gifts.
It is amazing how we each feel things differently. I adore how you both can see it you your girls, and honor it. It is, I am sure, a huge part of what gave both Briar and Fin the confidence to take those actions. And what a wonderful gift for his grandfather to hear such beautiful and honest words from Briar.
sorry — “see it in your girls”
Have I mentioned how beautiful your blogs are? Thank god for these little people in our lives.
Oh my. This is heartrending and so, so beautiful. Wow.
I read this through tears. I am so sorry for your loss, but you and your girls are so blessed to have each other. You are doing an amazing job as a mother, and it shows through in them.
Catching up on your last 2 posts. I’m so very sorry for your family’s loss.
Oh those girls of yours. How amazingly you capture the essence of your girls… even during such a difficult time.