Fluid: The Mirage of Beginnings and Endings

Despite what their names suggest, beginnings and endings are fluid. Nothing ever really begins…or ends.

Today has been a bit of a landmine of emotion. My grandma turns 87, just two days after being put on hospice. The symbols of her beginning and end being so close to one another is not lost on me.

Similarly this afternoon, my husband and I had a chance to take the kids back to our first home, almost 12 years to the day we moved in, and 8 years to the day we moved out. Again, the timing was not lost on me. It was the place where my daughter Grace spent the first two years of her life, and a house my son Michael never knew. Much of it was exactly as we had left it, down to the paint on the walls. It made me homesick, wanting to go back to those moments in my life that had passed. How easily I could put myself right back there…remembering how the boxwoods smelled as we worked in the yard…reading the Sunday paper while having breakfast in the tiny dining room…putting groceries away in the cramped, galley kitchen…seeing a toddler-sized, fluffy-haired Grace sitting on the floor of the living room watching Sesame Street with toys strewn around her…PhotoGrid_1433110505309

Then I turned around and saw the reality of now: this beautiful young woman with feet bigger than mine, who had no real memories at all of the house, despite the fact that I could picture her in every single corner of it. And next to her was this 6-year-old boy with kangaroo legs, sliding around on hardwood floors his chubby little baby knees never crawled on. We moved out of that house so we would have more room to bring Michael into our lives. How odd to be standing in this place with him where he never existed, if only in our dreams for the future.

It almost took my breath away how quickly life had changed in a matter of 8 years…how, standing within those walls of our first home, it felt like the beginnings of our marriage and parenthood seemed like yesterday. Yet a second later, it felt like a lifetime ago as I gazed upon my kids, who didn’t fit in this house at all: one because she was just too grown up to match the memory, the other because he was simply in existence. All the longing to be back in those days for even a moment vanished, for I realized my story couldn’t have gone the way it was supposed to if we hadn’t left that house. And leaving wasn’t really an end, but a beginning of something new, something better. Moreover, I discovered how easily I could make what was over seem like it wasn’t.

I hope that is what is happening for my grandma right now. It is as if her dementia has her in a state a bit like the one I was in as I walked through the rooms of my old house. She is living in moments of her life that are over, moments where sometimes her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren don’t even exist. Then every now and again, she is jarred into the present. Despite her failing condition, I would like to think she has points of clarity when she knows we are all here, that the way her life played out was good. Very good. And just as my husband and I will one day have to leave the house we live in now, the one that will always be known as the place where we raised our family, my grandma is facing another move…her final move.

I believe within the deepest chambers of my heart she will be moving on to a place where she doesn’t ever have to nostalgically wish to live in a moment that has passed, or feel as if life is being lived too quickly. She can be cognizant of every person she has loved. She can walk the rooms of any house she ever adored, sit in the desks of any school she ever attended, eat at any restaurant she ever held special, and sit on any Irish hill she ever dreamed of…all at the same moment. She won’t have to experience life in one-second increments. She can be in all the moments, all the time. Her end here with us will be the beginning of hopefully everything for her.

In a word, it will be fluid.

I'm pretty sure Grandpa is waiting up in Heaven to do some more of this when she gets there...
I’m pretty sure Grandpa is waiting up in Heaven to do some more of this when she gets there…

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29 Responses

  1. Fonda Richards

    Wow. The tears are coming. As usual you have a remarkable way of bringing up so many memories. Growing up in the 60’s where all were not welcomed in some folks home, I remember always being welcomed in her home. She always had a smile. As a matter of fact my parents were only comfortable with your grandparents. Like most parents, mine were very protective. I did not understand it until I was older. Mrs. Nestor is a special person as was your grandpa. I am sure the good Lord will have his arms out wide to welcome her the way she did others. Know that this will be her last home and her memories will continue to live in us all. Thank God for her life and sharing her with us.

  2. I had a lump in my throat as I read this beautiful post…Thank you for this…I’m kind of at a loss for words…May your Grandma feel joy and peace in her heart, now and always…

  3. Anne Nestor Blind

    Love , Love this Kelly! So beautiful… I looked at grandpa’s picture today sitting in her room and asked him to please let her know he is waiting for her. Of course know I am bawling like a little child not so so much because I am sad but because this touched me to the core. it is a good cry and so glad that we all came together tonight to celebrate her birthday which I am sure will be her last ! I think I see a tradition to honor her every May 31st in the works! Love you Kelly!

  4. mimikath

    This is so beautiful and very deep. Thank you for helping me see this in a different light.

  5. Your version of Heaven is the definition I never knew I desired! How beautifully written. I’m sorry that your grandma is in hospice now but also happy she’ll receive good care and you as her loved ones will receive awesome support.

    • Thank you so much, Shannon. So far, the hospice women have been wonderful. It is comforting to know they will keep her out of pain as much as possible. And here’s to hoping Heaven is like that!

  6. Kelly, this is so beautiful. I wish this for your grandmother and my own, who is 91 and has dementia too. I never understood when I was younger that it is an honor to watch a loved one age, to witness the harsh lines of past and present become blurry. I love the idea that when we die, it all becomes fluid and time as we understand it is irrelevant. xxoo

    • Thank you, Karen. I love how you put that. It is an honor…a hard honor at times, but yes. Sending prayers and love for your grandma as well. xo

  7. ❤ I was with my gam too. it’s bittersweet. your words complete resonate with me. My uncle passed from . Alzheimers. so many memories tied up with him and her. beautiful thank you for putting into lovely words

  8. nmjohnson14

    This is beautiful and made me teary. I would love to think of Heaven the way you’ve laid it out. What a great picture of your grandparents!

  9. OH wow! Beautiful!

  10. Love this! Life is so bittersweet at times.

  11. Hospice and Dad – two words I hope my kids never have to utter together in the same sentence. Ah, we do love our grandmas, don’t we.

  12. Such a beautiful post, and I’m so sorry to hear about your grandmother. Have you ever read “Proof of Heaven”? I always take comfort knowing that she is going to a wonderful place. And it IS nostalgic going back to old houses…life goes on doesn’t it?

    • Thank you…your words mean a lot. I have never read it, but it’s going on my list of books to check out now. She deserves peace, and yes, our lives will go on. Weird, sad, and wonderful all at the same time.

  13. Love this! I lost my grandma just over three years ago, and while I miss her very, very much, I know she wouldn’t trade anything for where she is at now. I can just see her laughing and clapping her hands, if she’s not playing the piano, up there in Heaven with my granddad sitting quietly beside her.
    Also, thanks for the reminder that these are the days I will look back on with nostalgia years from now. Sometimes I get so caught up in future plans or what I would change about my current situation that I forget to live in the now. Gotta enjoy the present because you’ll never get this time back 🙂

    https://violettsareblue.wordpress.com/

    • Beautiful words about your grandma. And it’s hard not to get caught up in the future. I feel like it is much easier to live in the future and past than in the life we are living at the moment.

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