{weathered angel sculpture in my parents’ wooded backyard}
My 96-year-old grandma is floating between here and there, between the now and the next place, wanting to stay but still longing to go. She is understandably so confused. I got to spend some quality time with her yesterday – holding her hand, feeding her ice cream, watching her slip into brief sleep and then return with new questions.


It was like re-entry every time. The nursing home where she has lived for several years seemed like a brand new place each time she opened her eyes. “Where am I?” she asked repeatedly. “I knew nothing about all of this.”


Grandma Benson at 95
I’m sure some doctors would argue my grandma simply has dementia, explaining away her disorientation and repeated mentions of her mom, dad and siblings whom have long since passed. But I have seen this before with others close to death. I’ve heard similar stories from friends with ailing or aging loved ones. And my grandma’s aides recognize these as signs she is fading away before our eyes. This dance with the Other Side seems more common than not, but there are no medical tools to measure the distance between where we are and where we’re going. The best tool I have at times like this is faith – in a higher power, in a better place, in the power of love.


Though I hate seeing her so confused and uncomfortable, it felt like an honor yesterday to witness my grandma gingerly stepping back and forth between the known and the unknown, watching the lines blur. There were times she’d look deep into my eyes and I could FEEL her recognizing me as I rubbed her arm. She even asked where my kids were and wanted to see pictures of them. At one point, she lifted her frail hand and placed it inside mine. It took my breath away because I have no memories of my grandma reaching out to touch me. She was never a nurturer; never the kind of grandma who’d surprise you with a hug or steal a kiss or tell you she loved you. And now, in what seem to be her final days, it seems all she really needs to keep her calm is love – a gentle touch, a familiar voice, someone at her side. My mom – her daughter-in-law – kept gently telling my grandma yesterday how loved and safe she is, here and there and everywhere. I pray that she can trust those words to be true and let them lead her home.


Before we left last night, I told my grandma I’d be back. “No, you don’t need to come back,” she said. “Why would you come back? You won’t need to come back here.” So, I leaned down and whispered in her ear, “I love you, Grandma.” And she said it back, slowly and clearly: “Oh, I love you.” That felt like such a gift, heartfelt and heaven-sent.