NOT THE WAY GRANDMA DID IT
"That's not the way Grandma did it," my seven-year-old informed me.
"I'm sure you're right honey, but I'm not Grandma," I replied as I tried
to pry a cake out of its pan. The special bond
between Grandma and Emily was unusual because they were not related
biologically. Henrietta volunteered to temporarily keep Emily after our
regular sitter could no longer work. By the end of their first afternoon
together, Henrietta had become "Grandma" and Emily had found her place.
During their seven years together, Grandma had helped teach Emily to walk,
read, write, ride a bike, cook, climb trees, swim -- the list could go on
forever. At times, Henrietta would tell me she felt slightly guilty that
Emily enjoyed staying with her so much. It was no secret that Emily
preferred to be with Grandma over anyone. Grandma was a blessing and we
were thankful to have her.
Then, the unthinkable happened. Grandma suddenly became ill and had to be
hospitalized. Initially, the two of them were able to communicate by
phone, but as Henrietta became weaker, the conversations came to an end.
Emily was lost. She had rarely gone a day without either seeing or talking
to Grandma. A few weeks after becoming ill, we got the call in the middle
of the night that Grandma had passed away.
My husband and I lay awake trying to imagine breaking this news to our
daughter. Grandma had been her world for seven years.
As I lay there in those early morning hours, I thought back to the last
conversation I'd had with Henrietta. I had called the hospital to check on
her and was told by her daughter that they'd been trying to reach me.
Henrietta had insisted on talking to me and had been becoming increasingly
agitated at not being able to speak to me. Her daughter was hoping that
after talking to me, Henrietta would finally be able to rest.
As Henrietta held the phone, I could hear her labored breathing.
"Is my baby ok?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
"Yes," I replied.
"I need to know that she'll be okay."
"She will," I said, my own voice now choked with emotion.
"Tell her I love her."
"I will," I promised.
Within an hour, Henrietta slipped into a coma. Now, as word of her death
came, I understood the reason for her agitation. She had needed to hear
that her beloved Emily was going to be okay without her. She needed Emily
to know how much she loved her. Having done that, she now could rest.
As daylight finally came, I waited until I heard Emily stir before going
into her room. I kissed her and brushed her hair, still tasseled from
sleep, from her face. As I strained to keep my voice from breaking, I told
her that Grandma had gone to heaven to be with Jesus. I had expected her
to cry, maybe even hysterically, but she
Instead, without saying a word, she rolled away from me and faced the
wall. I sat with her awhile, hoping she would eventually cry, be angry,
anything. Instead, she just stared at the wall. When she did finally
emerge from her room, she walked around as if she were in a daze.
We went through the motions in the days that followed striving to adjust
to a daily routine that no longer involved Grandma. Each time someone
would bring up something about Grandma, Emily would quickly change the
subject. It was as if just to hear the word "Grandma" was more than she
Now several months after her death, when my cake refused to release itself
from the pan, Emily mentioned Grandma.
"That's not the way Grandma did it," she repeated. I turned to her and
caught sight of a tear before she quickly brushed it away.
"I know sweetheart," I sighed. "I can't do it like Grandma, but I bet you
can. Why don't you show me how Grandma did it?" I suggested.
Emily took the cake pan and gently worked a knife around the edges, just
as Grandma had no doubt taught her. The cake easily slid out of the pan.
I looked on with tears in my eyes as I realized Emily's healing had