She Did Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
A few close friends are dealing with hard family issues right now – all health related. Watching them cope made me remember the last time my late Grandma visited our house.
I was 15. We were living in a small town just south of Austin. Everyone knew Grandma was slipping into dementia. The idea was to squeeze in one last holiday trip while she was still able, and it was our turn to host the extended family for Christmas.
It began well enough.
A small parade of cousins and cohorts cruised in from Oklahoma. Our house was soon bursting with food, music, and laughter. The presents piled up under the tree. Grandma shuffled around, mumbling to herself and cleaning up little messes along the way.
On the 2nd day, things took a turn.
Her dementia had progressed further along than we knew. By the afternoon she was a whirlwind of rushed gibberish and frantic searching – for what, I don’t know.
Looking back, she probably felt stranded in a storm of vaguely familiar faces in an unfamiliar place. Beyond ignoring, beyond shepherding, none of us knew what to do when she became hysterical in the living room. We stopped what we were doing, looked up and found ourselves in a wide orbit around her panic. In other words – a safe distance.
Grandpa stepped off the edge and met her in the middle.
She lashed out. Flailing.
He grabbed her hand and slowly pulled her body to his.
I remember his steadiness, like he was operating from muscle memory, absorbing her blows until she finally let go and leaned in. He didn’t try to sit her down, or aim her towards the privacy of a bedroom. They just stood there and faced it. Her head pressed against his chest as he held her tight against the sobs.
Without words, the act itself was offered up as a prayer of desperation.
“How could you let this happen?”
Gravity shifted in the room. We fell silent. Reality bent around the weight of their relationship. We were ripples in their universe, freshly born, and still close enough to witness the two stones that made us before they sank under the surface.
In place of their wordless prayer, an unflinching answer rose from the deep.
“Because you’re of me – and now you see what we’re capable of.”
No one looked at each other. Only half of us could raise eyes and look at them. Grandpa was stoic, unblinking, a willing sacrifice. Bleeding out in front of his family so we could see the truth written in red.
“This is what love looks like.”
To the people that are going through it – you were built stronger than you know.
~ Rex Williams,
Oldest son of the wizard and Princess Pennie