It was a crisp cold December evening around 7:00 pm . I was outside with one of my friends from middle school talking about things only teenagers talk about; school and boys. An old yellow cab pulled up in front of my house out of nowhere. As I look behind me to find an explanation, I see my uncle and aunt helping my grandmother walk towards the taxi. She was a tiny woman in her late 70's. About 5'4 with a tan complexion and dark brown silky thin hair. It lingered right above her shoulders.
She was always such a strong woman, despite her delicate thin physique. When she wasn't cooking an authentic Mexican meal, she was doing her chores. My aunt always said it was because she wanted to feel useful. She wasn't the most affectionate type of grandmother most kids have at home. She would only say I love you on Christmas or during birthdays. The way she showed her love was through her cooking. My favorite was when her and I would go to the local swap meet and she would pick up two custard tart desserts with a couple fresh raspberries and blueberries on top. One for her and one for me. She was a diabetic, and would always smile at me and say "this is our little secret".
As she approached the taxi cab I noticed the swelling in her legs had gotten worse. They were huge, full of liquid. She looked like an extremely obese woman but she really wasn't. Concerned I ask my aunt "What's going on?" as they passed by me. "We're taking your grandma to the hospital. You stay here, I will call you." Worried, I slipped into the backseat where my grandma was and kissed her goodbye. She put her hand on my cheek as she kissed me back and said "Be a good girl."
The next day my aunt took me to go see my grandmother. She told me during the car ride that grandma was in a coma. She said her heart was too big and wasn't able to function properly, hence why she had water in her legs. My heart sank as I sat there, watching my aunt hold back the tears. She was trying her best to be strong while she looked straight ahead and drove.
"A coma" I thought..... but she was coherent last night?
We walked down the squeaky white halls in the hospital. The bright lights made the Nurses and Doctors scrubs and coats look especially white. I would see them randomly exit and enter patients rooms with their clipboards. This is where all the sick people are I thought to myself, I felt a nostalgic energy in the air as I walked past multiple rooms. Family members were sitting or standing next to the patients bedsides.
When we into the room where my grandmother was, I saw her laying there. Eyes closed and hooked up to multiple machines including an oxygen tank. I stood beside her and held her hand but didn't even see her flinch. A few days went by and we would rotate staying the night with her in the hospital. I always had my notebook with me so I could write my poetry or draw. A few days later, my aunt and I stayed the night to be with grandma. It was around 7:00 am when my aunt said "I'm going to get something for us to eat at the small convenient store across the street. I'll be right back." "Okay" I replied "Please get me an orange juice!" I said quickly before she disappeared into the hall.
As I continued writing my poetry, about 15 minutes into the silence, I noticed something weird. My grandmothers breathing was forced and every breath was far apart. I immediately got up and held her hand. "Grandma, please don't go yet, my aunt will be here any moment. Please wait for her!" I started to cry and thanked her for everything she taught me and for helping raise me the last 3 years. And in the midst of my agony I felt her hand squeeze mine tightly. Confused I look at her and she turned to me and a tear ran down her cheek. I couldn't believe it! That moment my aunt entered the room and I told her frantically what was going on with grandma. She asked me to please wait outside the room.
A couple minutes later, she opened the door with tears in her eyes and said "Grandma has passed away."
The Open Casket
That very day, my aunts and uncles made the arrangements for the open casket. I just couldn't believe my grandma was gone, she was really GONE. Reality sunk deep into my bones like an anchor at sea. I will never be able to talk to my grandma, see her or hug her ever, EVER again.
Family and friends started to show up at the venue in their best Sunday attire. We're Catholic, so we prayed the novena with the rosary. After a few hours, my eyes started to close. My eyelids felt heavy. Like bags of sand and I couldn't fight sleep any longer. Exhausted from staying the night at the Hospital and waking up early to all of this, I did anything a selfish teenager would do. I went into the tiny room that was in between the bathroom and the room full of grieving people and locked the door. I laid on the love seat and dosed off.
I fell into a deep sleep. But surprisingly, I could hear people faintly through the door. My body was asleep, but I was still very conscious. I remember seeing two pair of legs stand in front of the floral 90's sofa. One pair wore dark gray slacks and black shoes. The other person had tan stockings on with a floral light blue and purple dress tea length. She had low heel shoes on. Somehow, I couldn't look up to see their faces."Is she sleeping?" one asked the other "Oh.. yeah. She's asleep. " They stood there for a few seconds watching me, then they left.
Shortly after, a nun came into the room. She wore the oh so familiar black and white habit most nuns wear. She also, came and watched me as I slept. I remember feeling at ease and thankful that there was a nun at the open casket to pray with us.
I woke up after a while and noticed the door was still locked? But how did all these people get in then? Just when I opened the door, I saw one of my aunts sitting just across the way. "Auntie" I said as I sat in the chair next to her "who came into the room?" I asked curiously. "Nobody" she replied "You locked the door" she added. "But I saw a man and a woman watching me." I replied confused. She looked at me intrigued, "Well, what did they look like?" I described them and when I was finished, she said "That was your grandma and grandpa. That's what they wore." It took me a few seconds to digest that comment.
"Well, what about the Nun? I think it's nice that a nun is here to pray with us" I said. My aunt looked at me funny, "There's NO Nun here honey?" I paused, confused.....looking for some type of explanation. "What did she look like?" she asked. "Well, she was fair skinned, chubby rosy cheeks and she wore glasses." She looked at me and slowly started to dig through her purse. A few moments later she pulled out a small prayer card with the Nun I had just described.
"Is this what she looked like?" She asked. "Yes!" I exclaimed "that's her!"
Your grandmother carried mother Teresa in her purse always. That's who you saw.