There are many reflections in the ripples of time. Flickers of glimmering light, each containing the power of the sun but only to last for a split second before vanishing. Is every flicker the same or do they each have such a finite characteristic that not one of them will ever be truly similar? The snowflakes of the ocean perhaps.
I vaguely catch one of these memories and I hold onto it... I replay it repeatedly in my mind. The memory eludes me as a whole, but these particular fragments last forever for some reason.
I remember her with out in the summer sun. I must have been four or five years old maybe.
"Grandma, can I help?"
"Sure, you can help, but be very careful. Roses have thorns on the stem that can prick you, see?" She gently flicks one of thorns, showing me where they are and how they are sharp.
"Why do all of the rose bushes have pits around them?"
"It's a mote for the water to help the soil around the plant stay moist. Let's get the hose and I'll show you." She lets me hold the hose as the water comes on. I start playing with the water and she comes to guide me.
"Water the base of the rose bushes, try not to waste so much water."
As I aim the hose and arch the water stream to the base of the rose bush, the water fills0 the soil mote, filling up and slowly absorbing into the ground, but a small puddle remained.
Grandma takes the hose, and assures the water is being used resourcefully.
"See? Now the roses can still drink, even as it gets hotter."
RoseMarie is her name.
Suddenly the memory has ended, and I am jolted into their house. I am ten years old. I am not in school due to the massive Northridge earthquake of 1994. I am with my mother, and we are at my grandparents' house, the rose bushes still flourishing.
An aftershock begins to violently shake the house. My mother and I run to a doorway and hold tight. But where is my grandmother? I will never forget the panic I felt and the confusion which set in when I saw her. As the earth shook around us, everything rattled and clanked, but she did not run much less to a doorway. Instead, she had a casual pace and immediately went to the fine crystal glass and chine collection hanging behind the bar. She raised her hands as if to brace all of the precious glass.
"GRANDMA QUICK! GET UNDER A DOORWAY!"
"It's alright. I'll be fine. The champaign glasses won't if I don’t hold’em."
She was completely focused on the glasses and champaign flutes as the aftershock grew more violent. That was the moment I learned that my grandmother was brave and fearless of God's plan. She stood there the entire time and did not flinch. She told God on that day “You take my glass, you take me with it!”
Again, the memory ends and I am jolted. I walk into the hospital and sign in knowing this would probably be the last time I would see my Grandfather Ned. I enter the elevator and the doors open into the lobby of the patient wing. There are empty chairs all around, but before me and almost unrecognizable by herself sat my Grandmother RoseMarie.
It is March 25th, and the family has gathered, but my grandmother sits alone. She is crying but calm. She looks up and sees me. She smiles as I walk toward her. I have not felt warmth like this from her in some time. Strangely, she is more full of life now than she has been in the past ten years, in fact she looks slightly younger.
"I'm so sorry grandma."
I gently lean in and softly embrace her fragile body.
"It's awful. So awful but it's just time."
I was surprised she was taking this so well.
"They're all in there with him. Go see him. Just down there on the right." She says.
"I love you grandma. Do you want to come in with me."
"No, I just wanna sit a little longer." She said with the West Virginian twang that never left her.
"Okay." and down the hall I went to experience one of the most profound and difficult emotional experiences of my entire life...
And again, I am jolted. It is five months later, August 4th 2023.
I park my car outside of my grandmother's house. It has been strangely cold and sad in this place ever since grandpa passed. These five months did not weigh well on her. She was now without the love of her life and every day was torture without him.
It is hard on everyone. She is in her bed... she looks smaller and much older than ever before. She is frail and shutting down as she is now in her final sleep before the journey. The family determined that it was time for hospice care. Ever since Ned had left us, someone always stayed with Grandmother as my mother had made a promise to her father Ned just before he passed, vowing that it was alright to let go because we would take care of the love of his life after he was gone. This promise was fulfilled. She never had a day alone, but she never had an easy day either.
Now, the morphine sleep was repeating itself much like it had five months earlier, only this time, we were beside her bed at home. Grandfather Ned wanted to pass in his sleep and in his bed. He got half of those things with the help of morphine and Ativan.
I held her rigid, frail hand. Her skin was still so soft. Her hands were cold, and her veins were becoming darker and darker as her vitals slowly dropped throughout the day.
It was time for her to be brave. She was as fragile and delicate as the eggshells she always painted so beautifully in the spring.
In all of the sadness and hysteria... I was jolted into a daydream...
In this daydream, everything in the room was the same, except none of us were there. She was alone, curled and covered in bed with her breathing apparatus on pumping oxygen into her. That was the only sound. The repetitious hiss and pump of the machine she had used for her COPD the last few years.
Hiss... pump... hiss... pump... hiss... and then it stopped. It became quiet, peaceful, and calm. She opens her eyes; she takes a FULL breath of air like she has not had in decades.
A buzzing bee is all that is heard amongst the gentle wind softly rustling the trees outside. The bee makes his way through the window screen and buzzes into a cyclone from the ceiling, right down onto Rosamarie’s forehead. The bee sits there fluttering it's wings before quickly buzzing off almost as if it disappears.
A strikingly handsome young man is beside her bed. With nearly the posture and pose of a poet, he begins to speak...
"Articulator of esoteric cogitations, amicable philosophical and psychological observations and platitudinous ponderisities... since 1947."
He reaches out to her with his big hand, calling for her grasp.
"Oh Ned. This is a wonderful dream."
"To the moon RoseMarie. Come with me to the moon."
As she trembled and raised her veiny arm and skeletal hand, something quite odd occurred. All of her wrinkles vanished, her hair curled and became black instead of grey, and once again she was unrecognizable to me, but this time she was not alone. They were young again. They were together again.
Hand in hand, everlasting and full of life, she was in her summer dress, and he was in his weekend polo. As he she stood on her feet again, it became clear to her that she was comfortable, happy and full once more. He gestured her to see...
And out of the light... an army of past pets, all tiny dogs, chirp and bark and bounce in happiness and excitement. And after the loved family pets of all days passed, their shepherd.
"Hello Grandma. Welcome home." Andy said with his voice of happiness and laughter. He holds a rose for RoseMarie. And once again, they are all together as a family.
Rest in peace Grandma RoseMarie... and forever, the roses will always be you. I am happy that you and Grandpa are together again. Thank you for the petals.
RoseMarie Skaff March 1st, 1932 - August 5th, 2023
Ned Mitchell Skaff October 18th, 1926 - March 26th, 2023
Always together. Forever soulmates. We Love you both and we will always miss you.