Gram Melva, got a cough. It rattled in her chest and she described it as feeling like something was “broken inside.” Two weeks later, she was diagnosed with cancer. When she heard her diagnosis, she was angry about her lifelong smoking habit. She wasn’t angry that she had ever started, she was angry that she had bothered to quit four years before. She missed her “smoky friends.” Within a month she was in intensive care.
The week Gram went into the hospital, was the same week that my first marriage was ending. I sat with Gram in the ICU and told her about the break up. We had divided our possessions. We were moving out of the house and I had found my own apartment. Gram listened and nodded. Soon she would be fitted with a tube that would help her breathe but would not allow her to speak.
She grabbed my arm and pulled me close. She was still able to talk but not above a whisper. I realized that this would likely be our last conversation, what she said next, would be her final words to me. I expected her to tell me that I would be okay, or that she was proud of me, or that she loved me. Instead, Gram said, “Get the china.” From my Gram, this was a perfect, funny, parting shot. She died a few days later.
I shared the story of her final words with my soon-to-be ex. He knew Gram well and he listened and laughed in the right places. Two days later, I returned home from work and sitting on the doorstep of my new apartment was his half of the dishes, carefully wrapped in newspaper and packed inside a large moving box.
I got the china. I miss her every day.