There are many milestones in life, and one of them happens to be when you turn “40.” I was not excited about turning 40 because I realized that I had not met my personal goals of getting married and having a family and more importantly I didn’t feel that I looked like I was “40.” I mean geez I remember when my parents were 40 and I thought that was so….old. But now that I was on the threshold of 40 I realized, “Hey, that’s not that old at all.”
The seven months leading up to the great milestone of 40 I went through some transitions in my life and after I turned 40 I went through some additional transitions in my life. All of these transitions were in the areas of family, friends, relationships and finances. You know your typical elements of transitions that you go through in life.
Prior to my birthday of Sept. 18, 2012 I experienced several losses. The loss of my maternal grandmother, the ending of a friendship due to betrayal, the ending of a romantic relationship due to dishonesty and the loss of my first home after 11 years. All of these relationships (yes I had a relationship with my home) really hit me hard and they all were within months of each other. Those people who paved the way before me-you know those who are older than me always told me that there’s something about 40. The veil is removed from your eyes and you can REALLY SEE!!! Or as Jill Scott said – (I’m paraphrasing) “I thought I was grown at 25, at 30, but at 40 I’m a grown “A” woman!” Say that Jill-that’s exactly how I felt and still feel.
So far the year 2012 seemed like, as my father called it “a season of death” was taking place from the months of January until May ( and even months beyond-I will explain later). It seemed like that every time I turned around either someone that I knew personally died, or a celebrity or one of my Facebook friends lost a loved one. This season of death was making me feel very uneasy and not sure what was going on in the universe. I felt a bit sad and often times found myself thinking about the darkness of death and had this overwhelming shadow casting over my thoughts and being. I couldn’t grasp what I was feeling. Well, in the month of April one of my mother’s good male friends passed away in Atlanta and because the funeral occurred rather quickly she was unable to attend the funeral . Therefor, my mother asked me would I represent her at the funeral? Boy, my first thought was, “Oh how could my mom ask me to do such a thing when she knows how I feel about funerals.” However, I knew how close she was to her friend and how much she wanted to be in Atlanta, so I knew that I was going to have to have the courage to be the family representative. I asked God to give me strength and help me walk down this path and he did. I attended the funeral…and while I was there, I still felt some uneasiness to my spirit, to my soul- but I just couldn’t explain what was going on inside of me. In fact, I was feeling so weird that I even had a few conversations with my mother to let her know what I was feeling. She too was feeling some kind of way as it pertained to this “season of death” we were experiencing. However, neither one of us could pinpoint exactly what was going on…but we were soon going to find out.
Anyone who “really” knows me, knows that every Mother’s Day and during the month of August, I go and visit with my grandmother Laura E. Beck. I don’t care what I’m doing I see her at least twice a year. Now, if I can fit in a few more visits I do that too. Well, this Mother’s Day was going to be a Mother’s Day that would forever be etched in my heart. Not unlike any other Mother’s Day weekend, I hopped in my car headed down the road to Pembroke, Virginia- a 6-7 hour drive, depending on if I stopped at the outlets malls along the way. I was in my car headed to Virginia and I called my mother and during the course of our conversation she casually let it slip that my grandmother was in the hospital. Of course I stopped my mother in mid-sentence and said, “Hold on…re-wind what do you mean grandma is in the hospital?” My mom, “Well, I didn’t want you to worry. You know how you get. She’s in the hospital for a urinary tract infection. The doctors just want to make sure the infection isn’t in her blood. She should be home Saturday or Sunday.” I said, “Whew!! Ok. Good.” I said a little prayer to God for my grandmother’s health and I headed down the road to Virginia. As soon as I made it to my grandmother’s house, my mother called me and told me to meet them at the hospital which was right around the corner from grandma’s house. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous and wasn’t sure why I needed to be at the hospital if she was going to be coming home while I was there during my visit. So because I was summoned to the hospital, I headed over there immediately. I get to the hospital, park my car and go through the double doors. My nerves were getting the best of me. I don’t like the sterile, ammonia like smell of hospitals, but more importantly I’ve never seen my grandmother in the hospital before. As I walk down what seemed like the longest hallway of life…I walk down the hallway as though I was in slow motion. I then go through another set of double doors to the ICU unit. Now, I couldn’t understand why my grandmother was in the ICU if she just had a urinary tract infection- but whatever- I had to go see her anyway. I expected her to look like herself and perhaps be out of it just a bit but what I saw totally took me off guard. I approached her room very carefully, as I was a bit nervous and I saw my mother, brother and two aunts looking over my grandmother. I saw her lying there so helpless….so small like a little child and with “no teeth!” Now, you can’t help but laugh at that. You see, in all of my 39 years-I’ve never seen my grandmother without her teeth so that was a shock in itself. At that moment looking at her…I couldn’t hold back the tears. In fact, I had to leave the room because I couldn’t handle it. My mother came after me and basically told me to “keep it together and that Grandma Beck was going to be fine.” So I picked myself up and dusted myself off and went back into Grandma Beck’s hospital room. I spoke to her and she spoke back. She knew that we were all in the room. She said that my mother was her baby. But, what I remember most about that day is that she was cold and the nurse came in to put more cover on her. My grandmother in her usually funny-spirited self said, “Don’t forget my feet!” During the few hours that we were there, we had a lot of conversations going on. At one point my grandmother exclaimed, “What y’all talking about over there?” I knew in my heart that she was going to be fine – the medicine just needed to move throughout her system. As the hour got later, the doctor advised us that we needed to come back in the morning so that he can let us know if the infection got into her blood stream. Again, oblivious to what was really going on…I just figured we would be back on Sunday (Mother’s Day) and we would take her home either that day or on Monday.
It was Mother’s Day and my mother, brother, aunt and I headed back over to the hospital to meet up with my other aunts and the doctor to find out if the infection went into Grandma Beck’s blood stream and when we could take her home. I collected all of her Mother’s Day cards so that I could decorate her room with them, because I knew that she would want to see all of them when she was fully awake. As we all stood in her room, she just didn’t look like she was getting better. She was resting, but she knew we were in the room. The doctor came in and told us that normally when my grandmother is admitted to the hospital- she typically only stays in there for about a day or two, but then she’s ready to go home and she bounces right back. However, this time she was not bouncing back. The doctor said that the infection did not get into her blood stream….ok hold on…now I’m sitting on the window seal next to my brother and in my mind, I thought he said, “The infection did not get into her blood. So she’s fine and will be going home soon.” But in reality that’s not what he said. I swear I was in la-la land because I was just in complete denial of what was to come next. Then the doctor said that my grandmother’s heart was failing and that we need to decide if we wanted him to keep giving her medicine and feeding her liquids through a tube (she hadn’t eaten solid food since that Thursday) and here it is Sunday morning) or we could decide to take out all these tubes and let her rest comfortably and he would move her into another more comfortable, bigger room. In my mind, I thought it was just a bigger room – not realizing that the doctor was talking about the hospice section of the hospital. Well, my mother and aunts talked it out with the doctor and said that Grandma Beck didn’t want to live like that, you know hooked up to tubes. She didn’t want anything extra done to her. She wanted to be at peace. As my aunts were talking I just was in a deep, deep fog. Then I heard my mother ask my brother and I what we thought. I said, “You all are her children. It’s not up to us to decide.” When really in my mind I wanted to say, “ Um…keep pumping her with medicine and keep her on the tubes. I want her here and I don’t care that she is 102 years old.” So…the verdict was to take my grandmother off of all the tubes with the medicine and to make her comfortable. And making her comfortable meant…giving her morphine. This of course meant, that she could pass any day now. After the decision was made, we stayed at the hospital for hours just being in her room or outside of her room. But everyone just felt numb and lost. I just never thought this day would come. Well after spending the entire day and most of the evening at the hospital we all went back to Grandma’s house. The next day we all woke up feeling…numb again. We all really didn’t have a lot to say to one another. My mom, aunt and brother were planning on stopping by the hospital first before they headed back to Cleveland. I decided that I wasn’t going to the hospital before I got on the road because I didn’t want the image of my grandmother being in the hospital bed etched in my head as I was driving back to Atlanta by myself. When I told my mother I wasn’t going she said ok. Again, in my mind I was in denial-not realizing that on that Monday it was going to be the last time that I saw my grandmother. Well, as I was sitting on the edge of the couch thinking something sparked inside of me. It was a deep feeling. It was like an inner voice that spoke to me. You know that inner voice…I call it God. Well, God told me, “Kim you need to go to the hospital.” Then all of a sudden I said to my mother, “Mommy, I’m going to the hospital with you all.” When we got to the hospital…I again felt like we were walking down the longest hall ever. It was cold, a bit more busier that it was during the weekend. We went into my grandmother’s room and she was sleeping so peacefully. I propped myself up on the counter right in front of her bed and I just starred at her-taking her all into my soul, into my being. Then all of a sudden hot tears began to run down my face. I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t going to hear her voice or see her anymore at least not here on earth. It was like a force that came over me…I didn’t want to leave her, but I knew I had to get on the road and head back to Atlanta because there was no way of telling when she was going to cross over “the chilly waters of Jordan,” (This is reference to the old preachers when they talked about the coldness of death.) It could have been one day, two days, a week who knows. As I watched my aunts, my brother and my mother say their goodbyes it was my turn. I hugged my grandmother so hard and told her how much I loved her and how she was the greatest grandmother a girl could ever had. I just kept squeezing and rubbing on her hands and face. (side note: my grandmother had the most beautiful pecan soft, skin I’ve ever seen. She was beautiful and had the sweetest heart and could always make you feel like you and she had this special connection that no one else had. ) After we all said our goodbyes everyone headed on the road to their respective home towns. Usually, the road trip back to Atlanta is a relaxing and enjoyable one and it always seems that I make it back to the “A” before my mother and brother make it back to Cleveland. However, that was not the case this time around. This was perhaps the longest road trip of my life. It took me forever to get home. I rode the entire way without the radio on and I didn’t talk to anyone on my cell phone either. All I could think about was my grandmother and how that any day now she was going to pass. I got back to the “A” late afternoon and stopped to get some take out to bring home. All I wanted to do was veg out on the couch and watch mindless television. I was doing ok until…….around 9:45 p.m. my mother phoned me and told me that my grandmother passed away at 9:08 p.m. At that moment my world became dark and the tears just kept rolling. The first thing that I did was grab a quilt that my grandmother made for me and wrapped myself in it. And then all of a sudden I realized something. I was grateful because I didn’t have any regrets and then it hit me, God knew what he was doing. God was very STRATEGIC as it relates to the passing of my grandmother. He knew that I always go to see my grandmother on Mother’s day and so he planned it perfectly to allow me the opportunity to say “good bye” to her instead of allowing me to hear about her death and not have the chance to see her one last time. I was comforted by that thought and I had to say, “Thank you God,” because not too many people have the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones before they pass away. My grandmother’s death got me to thinking about how much God loves us and how he has a plan for each and everyone one of us. God doesn’t make mistakes he knows what he’s doing with your life. The loss of my grandmother hit me very hard. My grandmother would always ask me when was I going to get married, but then in the same breath she would tell me to take my time. Grandma Beck loved me and I knew it. I knew by the way she took time to talk to me and ask me about things that were going on in my life, I knew it because she would let me lay my head in her lap and rub my hair, I knew it because she said so.