As I awake, I see the Sky, as my ever expanding mind.
As I awake, I see the Sun, as the light of my own heart.
As I awake, I see the Universe, as my intricately woven body.
As I awake, I see myself, in the mirror of my Divine.
As I awake, I realize, I am no longer dreaming.
As I awake, I realize the greatest gift of all,
To be alive.
I recently taught a Kundalini yoga workshop on the 7 Steps to Happiness as Taught by Yogi Bhajan. During the sixth class, I talked about how our life is a gift (and I believe this to the core of my being) and that the world is waiting for all of us to share the gift of ourselves. So I begged the question, “If the world is waiting on us to share our gifts, what exactly are we waiting for?” This is a question I’ve asked myself in more recent times when I become fearful and start to hold back or resist the flow of life and its calling. It is the notion that helps me push through most obstacles that come my way. I had no idea as I taught this class, that it was actually preparing me for one of the biggest life shifts I have ever experienced.
In the coming weeks, I was told that my grandma was not doing well. That she was not responding and that her passing could be anytime. So the following day I went to see her. I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the nursing home. I was pleasantly surprised when I asked where I could find her and the nurse pointed to my left and there was grandma raising a ruckus in the commons area.
I walked over to her. She looked so different from the last time I had seen her. She was in a special chair, unable to lift her own body and was very confused. I knelt down beside her and said, “Hi grandma! Do you know who I am? It’s Jenni!” She paused and looked very closely at me and said, “My Jen?” I smiled and shook my head yes and told her that I came to see her and spend some time with her. We talked and she was in and out, sometimes making perfect sense and other times not making any sense at all. I stayed and sat with her until the nurses were ready to take her back to her room. Grandma looked at me and said, “Now I want you to get on the road before it gets dark so I know you’ll get home safe.” I gave her a kiss and hug and felt really good about the visit. I told my dad that she isn’t going anywhere. I jokingly said, she is going to live forever!
That all changed a few weeks later over Mother’s day weekend. I went to see her that Friday night with my parents. She would respond to my dad only if he talked really loudly in her ear. But it was just a nod of the head or a mumbled sound. We came back on Mother’s day and my dad said prayers over her with her rosary. This was a side of my dad I had never seen before. I’ve seen him cry only a few times in my life. I don’t like to cry in front of anyone. But I just couldn’t hold back my tears. I knew grandma wanted to go and I wanted her to be with my grandpa who has been gone for almost 30 years. She had been waiting for a long time. It was hard knowing that time would soon be here. I looked at my mom and said, “I noticed I have no patients scheduled [at work for the following week] on Thursday. I think there is a reason for that. “
I went to work on Monday and felt like I was in a fog. By Tuesday I was so emotional I didn’t know how I would keep it together. I couldn’t stop crying as hard as I tried. Then there was a point to where I didn’t want to hold back the tears. I was losing someone very special to me. So I just allowed myself to cry no matter who it was in front of. But the days went on and there was minimal change. Grandma was still holding on.
Tuesday was spent with a lot of my family together in grandma's room. Family I hadn’t seen and talked to in a very long time. I had a very special talk with my aunt that I will hold close to me forever. Grandma was stable so we all went to dinner. It was so nice to be together. There was a point when we were all in the room and then again as we were all sitting at dinner that it hit me how incredible family really is. Family has always been important to me but this was different. I heard stories from my dad, aunts and uncle about what they remember growing up with my grandparents. And I realized at that point that if it wasn’t for my grandparents, that none of us would be here. I said to myself, look at what they created. This is incredible!
Wednesday, still no change. The remarkable thing is grandma at this point had nothing to eat or drink for over a week. Then Thursday came. For me something felt very different when I woke up that day. I felt very restless and uneasy. I don’t know if it was because the Sunday before I had mentioned Thursday to my mom and that day was finally here, but something was different. My youngest brother was coming through town for the night before his annual golf outing with friends. I asked myself, could grandma be waiting for all of us to be together, and I mean, all of us?
I talked to my cousin Thursday morning and she said, “She’s different. Her breathing is really fast but it’s different.” Then I talked to the nursing home and was told she was declining and that it would be today. When I walked into the room I knew that it would be anytime. I contacted my mom and simply said, you guys need to get here.
One by one all of my family began to arrive to grandma’s room. We all were sitting around her bed, waiting and waiting. My family prayed around her and in her final moments we all became still. We all had told her at some point it was ok to go. But she kept hanging on. My aunt was the last to arrive after making the drive up late that night. It was just moments after my aunt arrived that I saw massive changes in grandma. I have seen this many times working as a hospice nurse but never with my own family. I felt an incredible peace. Each breath became less and less. And then she took her last breath. I was holding her hand watching it all. I saw the breath of life leave her. I saw the breath of life for the first time as the breath of God. Everything made sense. She was at great peace and so was I.
Throughout this process after hearing story after story of grandma’s life, I realized that this was a woman of great strength. This was a woman who lived one of the most faith filled lives I’ve ever witnessed and that I have the great honor of being able to call her my grandma.
Grandma and I had many talks over the last few years. She was always worried about me not being Catholic or tied to any religion. In one of our final great talks I told her that I was ok. I didn’t have a religion but that I have a daily practice with yoga and meditation that keeps me centered. I knew she was trying hard to understand what that meant but I also knew she didn’t quite get it. So the morning after she passed, I woke to do my morning sadhana. As I sat in front of my altar I tuned in and then I said to grandma, “This is my love. This is my way to God.” I continued with my practice that morning. At the end I felt this incredible peace and need to be very still. As I was sitting in silence her voice said very loudly and very clear, “Wow! I had no idea this is what you’ve been doing.” I started laughing because of the exuberant joy in her voice. I felt her joy as she said those words as if it was my own joy. Not only did I realize in that moment that she understood what my practice was, her voice allowed me to hear that she was free from the bindings of her own body. She was no longer chained down to the pain she experienced on this Earth. She sounded so free, so liberated and so full of joy. She then said, “I will be with you from here on out.” And I have felt her strength and her love with me ever since.
I can honestly say I’ve never felt a love like this. Grandma has given me one of the greatest gifts in this life. She has expanded my ability to love in ways that I never knew possible. It was almost strange to me in the beginning that a death could help me to understand the depths of love. But what I came to understand more deeply is the extraordinary gift that is this life. Our soul has been given this opportunity to remember God’s grace through each experience of life. No matter how much we’ve forgotten or how far away we’ve gone from love, each experience can be an awakening. Each experience a teacher. Sometimes we need to experience death in order to understand how it is to truly live. Sometimes we need to step into the darkness in order to understand what it is to be the light. Sometimes we need to reach the depths of sadness in order to understand the heights of happiness and even more so joy. And that all of life matters in ways that only God knows. But if our hearts are open, we can experience great awakenings on this Earth that will bring us directly to the knowing of our Source.
I thought it so appropriate to open this article with the opening passage of my upcoming book in honor of the awakening I’ve experienced through my grandma’s last days here on Earth. It is a passage I wrote very early on for Spirit Launcher that allowed me to understand that writing for me is a direct connection to my Divine. What I’ve been given is the opportunity to experience. One of my favorite quotes from Yogi Bhajan is, “Knowledge is understanding. Knowledge with experience becomes wisdom.”
At the time that my grandma took her last breath, I thought about all of the breaths we take in this life time. Our first breath represents birth, the unknown and all of the possibilities of this new life. Our last breath represents the legacy of every breath in between. Each breath is each memory is each moment. And that we are the sacredness of each breath and of each beating heart. And while this breath for me, this memory, this moment isn’t my last, I am awake enough to know that the breath of life, the breath of God is definitely one in between.
As always with love,
©2015 Jennifer Fremion. All rights reserved.