Saturday, May 12, 2012

Holding On

My uncle , Charles Maslan, passed away on Tuesday night.   The Saturday before, when I was up in Chicago, my auntie Dor, his wife, told me to pray for him to go.  She told me that very morning, when she was sitting in the chair beside his bed, her chair, where she's probably spent 90% of her time in the last months, that my Uncle Chuck had reached his hand out to her, and had pursed his lips for a kiss.  He did this with my cousins Di, and Doreen, his daughters.  He reached out to my Auntie Dor and he held on.  She kissed him, told him she loved him, told him it was ok to let go. Told him that his Mom and Dad were waiting, that she would be o.k.
He had let go of so much- dementia is a thief of such awful talent, whether you want to or not, you end up    holding onto skin and bones and letting go of cognition, remembrance, and self.  The soul has left, the Man that will always be my uncle was gone years ago.  

The end of life is not pretty, it's not romantic, it's not as easy as the movies make it seem.  His tailbone had worn through the skin on his back.  Do I really understand that?  Do you?  
He reached out to the one that had been there for over 60 years, by his side, through every up and down imaginable, and he held on.  

We lost a friend at the age of 32 from esophageal cancer- an amazing man.  A devoted husband, a loving father, a lawyer, a man who had never met a stranger, who was always, always, willing to help anyone in need.  From diagnosis to death, he had 6 months.  I remember sitting in the hospital room with his wife, family, friends. She told me that Dom had let go of his job easily- a job they both had worked so hard for, a job he loved.  She told me, as the end drew near,  she thought he had finally let go of the kids- a sweet, beautiful toddler with eyes and hair just like her daddies, and a precious son who would be born a week after his death. He was still holding on, she said, to her.  When we visited Dom, she was always touching his restless hands, stroking his forehead, hugging.... holding on.  
How could he not hold on to her?  to the girl he'd fallen in love with in high school, the bubbly, smart mouthed, compassionate woman who had stood by him when he got kicked out of college, stood by him as he worked his way  through law school, the woman who had stood beside him 5 short years before and vowed to love, honor, and cherish him in sickness and in health? holding on.  

I wrote about sweet Carter, and his momma does too.  She writes in her latest post about mother's day- her first one, and that her sweet baby is in heaven instead of here on earth to celebrate with her.  Have you had a precious baby reach out and hold on tight to your finger? you think, in your momma heart, that you will hold that little hand forever.  I imagine, in the time between when Carter stopped breathing and when he went to Heaven, that his momma and daddy held onto him in any way possible, hugging, kissing, touching that soft baby skin, brushing his crazy hair.  holding on.  

I remember my grampsy.  I remember visiting him in the nursing home as he struggled and fought through what we now know was FXTAS .  I remember kissing and kissing his head, his cheek, as he mumbled and hummed.  I remember rubbing lotion on his hands, his neck.  finding something I could do for him, anything to show him that i loved him.   holding on.

I remember my Gram in Chicago- holding her hand as she hummed and again when the stroke had taken all speech from her, holding her rosary with her, kissing her cheeks.  Breathing in and holding the talcum powder smell that was uniquely hers, even then.  holding on.  

I remember my Gram down south, sneaking her chocolate covered cherries, brushing and fixing her hair, singing to her.  Telling her memories of her front porch swing, fresh tomatoes and fried okra.  holding on.  

And then...then we let go. Our bodies weren't made to last forever, and sometimes, even when we think we have years and years  together, time and chance happen and our future changes shape.  So... so today I am thankful for all of those who have held on to me, thankful for all of those who I hold so tightly to.  Thankful to know that even when our grip relaxes and our soul lets go of the body it's  carried around, that we can hold on to our heavenly Father's hand, because even now, He is here, holding on to us.