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September 25th

September 22nd, 2018.

A cool, fall day.

My husband drives us across town to visit his ailing grandmother.

He’s been preparing me, or himself, or the both of us, all morning – telling me who else might be there, what we’re going to do, what to expect…

And finally, he says to me: “The location will be familiar, but not the situation.”

– – –

Summer 2007.

My maternal grandmother lies in her bed.

Every other time I have come to visit my grandmother, she has either been sitting in her recliner or making food in the kitchen.

I have never seen her bedridden like this before.

She dies in November.

– – –

August 2007.

My parents and I fly down to Puerto Rico to visit my paternal grandmother.

She is lying in bed, surrounded by family members I have never met, speaking a language I can barely comprehend.

I stand to the side, unsure of what to say or do.

My father says hello to her. He is kind. He smiles. He just stays there by her side, for a long time.

I wander around the house. There’s a full-size basketball court next door. Lizards and stray cats skitter down the street.

I sit on the porch and listen to the sounds of conversation and laughter. Family members reunited, after far too much time apart.

She dies in September.

And shortly after, my father receives a diagnosis of Stage II nasopharyngeal cancer.

– – –

January 2011.

I sit by my father’s bedside, after months of hospital visits, chemotherapy sessions, and radiation treatments.

He is sitting in his recliner, next to the bed, resting.

My anxiety gets to me, and I check his pulse. He’s still alive.

He doesn’t look like he’s alive.

He dies on February 5th, 2011.

– – –

September 22nd, 2018.

A cool, fall day.

I’m coming down with something. I’m exhausted, I feel terrible, but I’m here.

I sit close by her side. I hold her hand. I talk with her and my husband and his grandfather. I try my hardest not to worry about what to say. I just talk – about work, my students, Halloween, whatever comes to mind.

Voices carry from the next room, as family members talk about what to eat for lunch.

A letter from a childhood friend speaks of holding a book club in an overcrowded kitchen.

We all do our best to focus on life.

My husband’s grandfather tells us that he knows that she is proud of us.

There are pink watercolor hearts on her bedsheet. I study the pattern, and try desperately not to cry.

– – –

September 25th, 2018.

I understand more fully now, why we gather at our loved ones’ bedsides.

Yes, we are there for them, to comfort them at the end of their life.

But we are also there for each other.

Over the past 11 years, I have seen far too many loved ones stricken with cancer.

Losing a loved one to this terrible disease has not gotten any easier for me. It still tears me apart.

But as I sit beside my husband and listen to him talk about his grandmother, and his grief, and how to handle losing her, I hope that I might be at least getting a little better at comforting those left behind.

I am heartbroken today. Overcome by memories of my own grandmothers, and of my father.

But I am not alone. We still have each other.

Our family, our friends, our loved ones – losing them can hurt so much, can make us feel so lost and alone.

But then we make our way back to each other, and we remember the good times, and we comfort each other, and we celebrate life.

Love the ones you still have left.

Love them with all you’ve got.

Life is just too short.


Published by Adriana Lebrón White

Autistic school librarian and former special education teacher. MA Ed in Special Education and MLIS with a focus on Youth Services and Storytelling.

One thought on “September 25th

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