I received my grandma’s wedding ring today.
Her will stipulates that I have it upon her death. A decade ago, in the efficient manner of a woman who prizes hard work over sentimentality, callouses over manicures, she’d asked me, “What do you want?”
Having unknowingly tutored me in her simple way throughout my childhood, I reflexively matched her straightforwardness. “The ring. I want the ring grandpa proposed to you with.”
She’d nodded resolutely, a gavel falling to seal the deal.
This morning there it was. The silver ring I’d loved since I was a little girl poring over the wedding dress section in the Sears catalog was delivered into my hands by my sister.
“You might as well have it now,” Suzanne said resignedly, handing me a small clear cup with an orange screw-on lid. The container had a white adhesive label bearing my grandma’s name. The ring glided around inside its plastic cage. “I’m not sure how they even got it off her without having to cut it, her fingers are so swollen.”
My grandma isn’t dead.
She isn’t exactly alive either.
She’s warehoused is what she is. On pause, slumped and drooling in a nursing home wheelchair, awaiting the final gift God has left to bestow on her. There are no more doctor visits and medications to reverse the corrosive effects of aging, of a mind gone dormant, of legs that refuse to walk. She is visible and barely more, having crossed, as we all will, the point when heroic measures are futile and abiding is the only option.
It’s a strange dichotomy to build and expand my own life these last two decades while hers has moved opposite on a steady track of contraction, whittling down year by year to the barest necessities. She’s decreased from an acreage with outbuildings to a two bedroom apartment to an efficiency to a dorm room shared with a roommate at the local nursing home. In their prime, my grandparents built their own life to include three daughters. Grandma is all who remains.
I have learned many things from her, especially these years spent as her caregiver. Each is a painful gift, but a gift nonetheless. I have, in a sense, been allowed to experience my future while living my present. It has sifted me through the merciless mesh of perspective many times. I have grown better because of it.
For all of its indignity, there’s a certain heroism in growing old, in facing the stretch of days confined to a weak and failing vessel, in fighting the loss of every independence with volcanic rage.
I smile a little at my Grandma’s heroics each time I see her ring perched on my kitchen windowsill. She will be restored to her former self by her Maker soon enough.
It will be glorious.
It will be welcome.
It will be freedom.