This has been a painful, heart-opening couple of weeks for me and my family. My 88 year old grandmother Millie has congestive heart failure and is making a slow, steady transition from this life. She has mostly been alert, aware, communicative at times and thankfully, not in pain. The decision was made this past Wednesday to move her to inpatient hospice and we have all spent time with her, talking, laughing, crying, loving, and waiting.

Transition has brought gifts during this time. It has allowed Grandma to be with her five children, who are scattered across the U.S. It has allowed her three oldest grandchildren (myself included) to share our devotion and special gifts with her. It has allowed for family conflicts to cease, for relatives to reconnect, and learn more about each other. It has allowed my relatives time to plan for next steps with clarity unclouded by sudden grief.

And yet, the waiting is hard. Pain surfaces with every change in her breathing and every goodbye made at the end of a visit.

It has allowed us time to share stories and memories about this incredibly strong and resilient woman who grew up in Ponce, Puerto Rico, once worked as a secretary for the president of Goya Foods (I can never buy their products without thinking of her) and worked to the bone to support her children after my grandfather’s untimely death. Grandma has never been a chatty person, but her wit is legendary and her advice sound.

I recently learned how she and my grandfather met. He was working in sales and applied for a job at Goya. He walked into the office for an interview, and Grandma was immediately struck by how handsome he was. She went in to the office of the president to announce my grandfather’s arrival and told her boss, “You need to hire him.” The rest, as they say, is history.

I wasn’t raised with Grandma and only saw her intermittently growing up. I only got to really know her once she moved to Georgia to be closer to my aunt and uncle. It could be difficult to communicate with her. She is not a talker, and while she is fluent in English, her accent is heavy and my Spanish is limited. Still, we had some nice visits together, and it was wonderful to see how happy she was whenever I brought my daughter to see her. Like me, my daughter has my grandmother’s eyes. When she was born, two thoughts immediately crossed my mind. The first was, “Wow – my daughter!” and the second, “She looks just like Grandma!”

But the most amazing, unexpected thing has happened during this transition time. I felt myself connect energetically to Grandma in a way I had never experienced before with her. I could feel it when her condition changed last weekend, even though I was at home. As I sat by her bedside, holding her hand, rubbing her shoulder or stroking her hair, I could feel gentle waves of energy passing through us. My relatives, who know very little about Reiki, began to ask me about her energy levels. And it has moved me immeasurably that she has mostly continued to recognize me, and with great effort, mouths the words “I love you too”.

It has helped me see something that we often talk about in a spiritual sense, but may have difficulty recognizing within the context of ordinary life. I was able to see love in its purest expression, free of the limiting aspects of “self”. It was simply there in the space we occupied together. I was able to be fully present with Grandma and see her “great bright light”, the manifest expression of the light of wisdom and essential divinity we all have.  I have been profoundly moved by the dignity that radiates from her even as her body is slowly taking its leave.

My heart is bittersweet and full of love for the woman who always called me, “Mi hija.”

Vaya con Dios, mi abuela. Thank you for loving me. The angels surround you with their love, support and healing. My heart is open for your soul to visit.

Follow up note: As of September 7, my grandmother is still with us. Miraculously, her condition improved and she was moved back to the nursing home from hospice. We are blessed to have this extra unexpected time with her.

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