never thought that I understood her. She always seemed so far away from
me. I loved her, of course. We shared mutual love from the day I was born.
I came into this world with a bashed head and deformed features because
of the hard labor my mother had gone through.
Family members and friends wrinkled their noses at the disfigured baby
I was. They all commented on how much I looked like a beat-up football
player. But no, not her. Nana thought I was beautiful. Her eyes twinkled
with splendor and happiness at the ugly baby in her arms. Her first granddaughter.
Beautiful, she said.
Before final exams in my junior year of high school, she died. Seven years
ago, her doctors diagnosed Nana with Alzheimer's disease. Seven years ago,
our family became experts on this disease as, slowly, we lost her.
She always spoke in fragmented sentences. As the years passed, the words
she spoke became fewer and fewer, until finally she said nothing at all.
We were lucky to get one occasional word out of her. It was then our family
knew she was near the end.
About a week or so before she died, she lost the abilities for her body
to function at all, and the doctors decided to move her to a hospice. A
hospice. Where those who entered would never come out.
I told my parents I wanted to see her. I had to see her. My uncontrollable
curiosity had taken a step above my gut-wrenching fear. My mother brought
me to the hospice two days after my request. My grandfather and two of
my aunts were there as well, but all hung back in the hallway as I entered
She was sitting in a big, fluffy chair next to her bed, slouched over,
eyes shut, mouth numbly hanging open. The morphine was keeping her asleep.
My eyes darted around the room at the windows, the flowers, and the way
Nana looked. I was struggling very hard to take it all in, knowing that
this would be the last time I ever saw her alive.
I slowly sat down across from her. I took her left hand and held it in
mine, brushing a stray lock of golden hair away from her face. I just sat
and stared, motionless, in front of her, unable to feel anything. I opened
my mouth to speak but nothing came out. I could not get over how awful
she looked sitting there, helpless.
Then it happened. Her little hand wrapped around mine tighter and tighter.
Her voice began what sounded like a soft howl. She seemed to be crying
in pain. And then, she spoke. "Jessica," Plain as day. My name.
Mine. Out of 4 children, 2 son-in-laws, 1 daughter-in-law, and 6 grandchildren,
she knew it was me.
At that moment, it was like someone was showing a family filmstrip in my
head. I saw Nana at my baptizing. I saw her at my fourteen dance recitals.
I saw her bringing me roses and beaming with pride. I saw her tap dancing
on our kitchen floor. I saw her pointing at her own wrinkled cheeks and
telling me that it was from her that I inherited my big dimples. I saw
herplaying games with us grandkids while the other adults ate Thanksgiving
dinner. I saw her sitting with me in my living room at Christmas time admiring
our brightly decorated tree. I then looked at her as she was...and I cried.
I knew she would never see my final senior dance recital. I knew she would
never see me cheer for another football game. I knew she would never sit
with me and admire our Christmas tree again. I knew she would never see
me go off to my senior prom. I knew she would never see me graduate high
school or college or see me get married. And I knew she would never be
there the day my first child was born.
This made tear after tear roll down my face. But above all, I cried because
I finally knew how she had felt the day I had been born. She had looked
through what she saw on the outside and looked to the inside and saw ...
I slowly released her hand from mine and brushed away the tears staining
her cheeks, and mine. I stood, leaned over, and kissed her. "You look
beautiful." And with one long last look, I turned and left the hospice.
A Second Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul Copyright 1998 by Jack Canfield,
Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger