My Nana, My Friend

grandmother granddaughter happy faces smiling posing for photos in living room
by Amy Temple

The day began like any other. I didn’t have anything special planned that I can recall.
Honestly after I received the phone call from my aunt, I can’t remember anything else.
Nana had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and it was terminal.
I made plans to say my goodbyes to someone who was one of the most important people in my life.
I was blessed to have four wonderful grandparents but there was something special about my maternal grandmother.
She was so full of life. So full of love. Everything was fun to Nana. It didn’t matter what it was…Nana had the time of her life.
Even though she had to be placed into a nursing home due to other health issues…
And even though she was dying, Nana kept her cheery personality.

Nana is a loving grandmother and I love her cheery personality

maternal grandmother sits on wheelchair smiling besides granddaughter standing smiling in park

The day I arrived there was Nana, sitting in her wheelchair by the front door with that ever pleasant smile on her face.
Daily I would take her for rides around the facility. One of Nana’s favorite places to visit were the bird cages kept in numerous areas. She would have me stop and get the biggest thrill out of watching them, laughing and smiling the whole time.
There was this small hill near the Physical Therapy wing and I would run up and down it as fast as I could, sometimes more than once. That would often get another smile or laugh.
Sometimes Nana would even raise her hands and go “Whee!”
I admired the grace that Nana showed during this time. I honestly don’t know if I would have handled hearing such dire news the way she did.
Perhaps after everyone had gone home, Nana did lose it. Maybe she did lie in bed and cry herself to sleep at night. Maybe she yelled at God for taking her away from her family. Who knows?

All I know is that it was an honor to have been Nana’s granddaughter for as long as I was.

I admit I didn’t always appreciate just how truly blessed I was to have had Nana. I couldn’t – or perhaps I should say – didn’t want to understand how lucky I was to have somebody in my life who loved me like Nana did.
Now you might be thinking I was a teenager at the time so I should get a pass. Truth is… I was well into adulthood when I was doing all this nonsense. I honestly cannot explain to you why I acted this way because I don’t even know.
Quite simply, Nana was a very loving person, giving what she would call “love pats”. Nana would often sit and look at her family, just watching. She would soak up as much as she could of her family and I am sure those memories kept her company especially during the difficult times.
I’m grateful that God helped me come to my senses before it was too late:
One day as I was sitting by her side holding her hand, I apologized to Nana for all the times I was mean to her.
Nana gave me one of her infamous “love pats” and said she forgave me.
The last day I visited Nana, we shared the biggest hug we had ever had!
It would be the last time I would ever see Nana alive.

woman sits in living room writing goodbye letter to loving maternal grandmother

My Goodbye Letter to Nana

I would to share with you a letter I wrote which was read during her funeral:
Today, as with so many others, I’m saying goodbye to you. Oh, how I wish I wasn’t. I knew that cancer was soon going to take you and I tried to prepare myself, but when Dad actually said the words to me…I swear I could feel my heart start to break.
For 34 years I was blessed to have you as my grandmother. Not too many people can say that they were able to enjoy theirs for so long… but I was.
I’ll always remember you for your kindness, your smile and your quick wit. With you, there was never a dull moment. You lived life one day at a time. You enjoyed looking around at what life was offering… whatever it was, it caught your interest.
During one of our last visits together we were in the car and you were looking up at the sky.
Suddenly you turned to me and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to ride on a cloud?”
On November 16th, you got your wish and now whenever I see one, I’m going to imagine you’re there looking down, watching over me.

Thank you, Nana, for loving me as much as you did.
Your loving granddaughter,

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