Last summer, while I was four thousand miles from home fighting to get married, my great-grandmother was in a hospital bed fighting for her life. Her health had been failing for a long time and when she passed away it wasn't exactly unexpected. What was unexpected was that I would still be tied up in red tape when it happened. I packed for a two week trip and fast elopement, not the four month hassle that ensued. I never thought I wouldn't have a chance to say goodbye, but in fact, I wasn't even able to attend the funeral.
I honestly thought my grieving was over. But the thing I've learned about grief is that it's permanent. All the emotion it pumps out gets sucked right back into your heart. The love and anger and guilt...it just builds up over time until there is so much emotion it has to spill out again. Eventually the sadness is broken up by bigger gaps, but it doesn't stop altogether. And it shouldn't, because we should never forget the people we love.
I went on being sad and healing and being sad again for months. Truth be told I'm still caught in that cycle. But one night last winter, after I came back to Kyle in Germany, something different happened. I fell asleep and saw my great-grandmother. True to dream nature, I didn't realize I was asleep. We sat on a sofa and talked in a way we'd never quite managed when she was alive. It wasn't uneasy. There was no feeling that time was sliding away from us. It was peaceful. And then I realized that something was wrong. Memory seeped into my peaceful dream and I knew that what I was seeing couldn't be real because my great-grandmother was gone from my world.
When I realized this, when I knew that I was dreaming, she saw it in my eyes and held me close. More tears came spilling down my face and I said, "I don't want to lose you." She said, "I know." I don't remember anything else about our conversation -- just those two sentences and the way her arms felt around my shoulders. She held me until I woke up, which felt quite a lot like falling asleep, and then it was over.
My practicality knows that this was only a dream. My heart likes to think it was more than that. My stubborn, relentless heart likes to think that maybe I got to say goodbye after all.