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I've Been Loved

As I approached her front door, there were three circle windows. My memories of Gram running to the door to greet me start when I could only see the wood in the middle of the door. They end when I was tall enough to look through the top circles.

I've been loved. At night,when I am dying, I hold that memory as close to my broken heart as it will allow. There is no place in our king-size bed that is familiar, or offers me any rest, relief from this pain. After 25 years of marriage, I would have thought leaving would have been harder for him. Mere weeks after moving out, he found her: "The One." I am deeply flawed, unwanted, and apparently easily forgettable. The torturing question of when he stopped loving me circles the drain in my head endlessly. Then the sting, and the hurting swallows me whole. I can't trust myself to differentiate love from duty. Desperately, I search the world around me for a clue. Some sign that will create space for hope. For a reason to show up. To face my daughters with a sense of confidence. Faith is too much to wish for. It did not seem to help much anyway.

And then it washes into my consciousness. Memories of my Grandmother loving me. Loving me in a way I felt it, I knew it, and I trusted it. I trusted a love, and it lasted!

I can remember the butterflies in my stomach as Dad pulled our car to the curb in front of her square, cement block house. Right up until she died 10 years ago, the excitement was there. I was 39 when she died.

Except for my two daughters, I cannot think of anyone in my life, who loved me so long.

As I approached her front door, there were three circle windows. My memories of her running to the door to greet me start when I could only see the wood in the middle of the door. They end when I was tall enough to look through the top circle.

Gram was saying good-bye, and I saw her looking old and frail as she tentatively made her way to a chair. Then a cold rush of knowing she would likely fall prompted me to open the door to ask if she would be OK. "Yes, absolutely," Gram answered. Her confident tone nearly convinced me. Determined to respect the dignity of her answer, I drove away. I felt sick, and guilty.There is a "knowing"of things that comes to me sometimes. It is always right. No amount of wishing can make it go away. I was a hostage to this guilty knowing and a lifetime of being a child to her, trapped me.

It was this sense of knowing that led me to question her health when I followed her into the bathroom. Bloody tissue. An alarm sounded in my head: Gram has cancer! Someone deal with this! There was no satisfaction in being proven right by her check up. Chemotherapy, home care, fractured attempts by her three sons to support her staying at home as long as possible. Respite hospital admission, followed by going to a local nursing home. I lived hours away. Driving to see Gram was not easy. Seeing Gram, was even harder.

Being in Gram's house was a balm for my soul.The only place in the world I felt like I belonged. I was safe. I remember sitting on her lap as she marveled at the length and beauty of my legs. All at once, I had a revelation that I was 10 years old, and too big for her lap. There was never a moment of rejection, or hesitation in her love. I was loved. Gram's house was always filled with people and delicious food. The steam would fog the windows, and then drops of water would pool on the bottom. I wanted to live in her sanctuary. I wanted her to live forever. Cancer did not.

Eventually I came to believe my love had to mature. My love had to let go. My love had to give Gram permission to surrender. The body has its limits. It can be a container that betrays the heart it houses. It is not designed to last forever.

As Gram's cancer advanced, I became a coward.My intention to grow up and show up for her was overshadowed by my soul's protest"No! I will not allow this loss!" I would find reasons to leave her room. I could not bear to see her unhappy, frail, vulnerable, and dying. My last visit was excruciating. Gram asked if I would stay longer. I had a long drive, a job, and a very young daughter to manage. I felt like I would never, could never say good bye. Although I told myself I could leave, that I would see her again, something was telling me this was my last good bye. I forced myself to ignore that thought. My legs shook. My throat was swelling and burning, and tears welled up like an undeniable high tide. As I walked toward the door, and nearly out, she called me. Her voice shaking, sounding a little afraid to say what she wanted to say. I stood there and she said: "Brigette, you were always my favorite."
Paralyzed. Speechless. Stunned. I had never been anyone's favorite anything. I began to cry.

It is this moment that sustains me. I hold it up in my mind like a shiny new penny. I turn it, side to side. It sparkles and glistens. It is a beacon of hope. This is the moment in my life I can look to.I use it as a doorstop for my hopelessness and doubt. I am not flawed, not unwanted, and not easily forgettable. This moment is the sole fact that puts my cynicism and depression into a place I can manage.Even though I feel like I am dying, I am grateful to Gram for loving me.It is too hard to pray. Futile to look for faith: it never spared me much anyway.
The memory of feeling loved by my Grandmother is the difference between my giving up and standing up.I think of this moment when I wonder if true love exists. The relationship that I hold in my heart- that lasted.
Knowing I was loved reminds me I belong. I belong to this world. I belong to my daughters.

When I wonder if loving people is worth the pain, I know that love is the answer.


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