Every so often, events invade our lives with such tremendous force that each second feels as though it's stamped into eternal memory. These impacts reverberate into the furthermost caverns of our psyche. There is no use in running or denial. The effects are immediate and obvious.
Last Thursday found me standing by a hospital bed next to the frail, delicate frame of my 104 year old Great-grandmother, the matriarch my family, the heart of a hundred. Her eyes were closed as she labored to breath through an oxygen mask strapped uncomfortably to her head. Relatives moved about in hushed whispers, doing their best to tend to the one who had tended to all, making the greatest efforts to lessen her pain or ease her discomfort.
My Abuelita valiantly stirred each time she heard a new voice in the room, gasping and opening her eyes for a precious instant. I waited patiently for my opportunity and leaned in close to whisper in her ear, "Hola Abuelita, aqui esta tu Gerardito, te quero mucho Abuelita." I lingered a while as my sister sang her a song that seemed to lift her spirits, she squeezed our hands faintly taking in the melody as best she could. I wanted to join in and sing but the unfamiliar lyrics were lost on me. I knew these were my final moments in her presence, memories flooded my mind and a thousand thoughts crowded into my consciousness before I forced them aside to try to be present and take in the moment. After a little while, my responsibilities called me away and I said goodbye, looking back one last time, doing my best to live every fraction of that somber second.
I was not present when she drew her last breath, I was told she was surrounded by many loving family members who sang in unison as she crossed the threshold into eternal sleep. My heart holds no regrets, who could ask for more than 104 years of life? My Great-grandmother bore witness to the changing of the age. She was born in 1909 before flight was common, before the Titanic was launched, before war transformed the face of the planet (twice), before computers or mobile phones or big box stores or freeways or traffic or TV.
She bore nine children, she lived in two countries, she saw her children have her grandchildren then her great grandchildren and finally her great great grandchildren!
Imagine my joy when I was able to photograph five generations, my daughter cradled in the arms of her 100+ year old Tatarabuela.
I had the privilege of designing the program for her Memorial Service, a small but personal tribute, a way for me to honor her legacy and reflect on the passion, strength and joy she personified in her lifetime.
Ciao Bisabuelita! May we meet again one day!