Last year on July 4th, I wrote this post.
It was about Billy's grandfather and his passing. I wrote in another post that it was MawMaw, his bride of sixty years whom I was worried about and she had a terrible time after her beloved husband died. Physical pain and depression. One can only imagine. She was frail and tiny as a wren's dried bone and Billy and the whole family tried so very hard to keep her going, to get her out of the house, to try and find things to do with her that would interest her, to try and make sure she ate, took her medications, got to her doctors' appointments.
Billy wrote about some of the things they did together in his blog, Shit Me And MawMaw Do.
It's been hard. Very hard.
And today when I was in town running from here to there, I got a text from Billy that said, "If you want to say good-bye to MawMaw you should come do it now."
She had been in the hospital for almost a week and was fading, failing but this morning still coherent, wanting a milkshake, a cup of coffee. But this afternoon, she grew more ill. Pneumonia.
I drove to the hospital, parked, went up in the elevator, found her room, last one in the hallway. Her daughter, Billy's mother was there. She was crying in the arms of her best friend. MawMaw lay still on the bed with an oxygen mask on, her eyes were closed. I hugged Billy's mother and Billy too and then sat in the chair beside MawMaw and I kissed her and I stroked her and I told her how much my whole family loved her and I said, "You've done real good. Safe passage."
And either right after or during or maybe right before, she left us.
Everyone else got to the hospital and I stepped out of the room and stayed with the great grandkids. People came and went. It was as these things are.
Billy's sister, her children, Shayla, Billy's wife and their son. Hank. Our friend Mark. Goodbyes, last kisses were given. Nurses brought boxes of Kleenex for the grownups, Popsicles for the kids. Grape. That gave us something to do- wipe up grape Popsicle juice from the floor with the Kleenex.
A long, long time ago, MawMaw asked me if I would speak at her funeral service and of course, I said yes. The sort of promise easily made when no one is ill. Billy's mother asked me today if I could do that. She remembered. I said that of course I would. And I don't know what I'm going to say but I have some time to think about it. People are flying and driving in, the arrangements will be made.
I think what I will want to say is just that there was no one like Nell Lunsford. She was nobody's fool, she didn't tolerate bullshit, she loved you for who you were whether you were black or white, gay or straight. She and PawPaw watched Billy transgender and marry Shayla and were as proud of him as anyone on this earth could have been. Loved Shayla like a daughter, welcomed her into their family with open arms and open hearts.
The way they welcomed all of us.
Well. She's gone and she's not in pain any more and I don't believe in any version of an afterlife especially but if any two souls who have gone on can find each other in whatever way that may happen, she and PawPaw are together.
They played this at PawPaw's funeral and I keep thinking of it now.
I'll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan
I'll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming I will rise up with a shout
And come running through the shallow water, reaching for your hand.
Safe passage, MawMaw.
You done real good.
You are loved. This side and that one too.