Today, had she lived, my Nana would have been 101 years old. The past two years, since I began this blog, I’ve written about Nana at the end of December when her birthday comes and goes.
Eleven years have now passed since I was able to look into her eyes, hold her hand, or talk to her. Exactly twelve years ago today, when I visited her on her birthday while up in Maine, she said to me ‘Give Nana another hug…each time I see you I don’t know if it will be the last time.’ Exactly twelve years ago today I bawled like an infant for two hours driving home to Massachusetts, composing myself only at toll booths to hand my exact fare over and continue on. It was really the first time I ever let myself believe that one day, let alone one day soon, Nana would die.
As I get older I sometimes imagine how we might use our last moments/last occasions with someone if we were to know they were the last. That day, twelve years ago, was not the last time I saw Nana, but it was the last birthday she saw come. It was the last Christmas she put out a small tree for. It’s so easy to say ‘make every moment count because it could be the last moment’.
Easy to say. Easy to agree with. So hard to ‘hear’.
In just over six months from the time Nana asked for another hug on her birthday, she was gone. Her husband, Ray, had passed a few months prior. They were both buried in Westbrook, ME. I spoke at Nana’s funeral. I helped carry her casket to her final resting place. I stared at walls for days when I wasn’t forced to have conversations with others while I tried to accept that she had died.
For the past eleven years I could not bring myself to go back to her grave. I drove past the cemetery numerous time, but not into it. I just couldn’t do it. When I did decide to do it, so much time passed that the landmark I recalled as being my indication of the location of her gravesite had changed (a large tree that had since been cut down), and it took me some time to find her. I drove through the area I knew her to be buried in slowly, crying again because I felt like a complete heel for having ‘lost track’ of where her grave was.
Eventually I did find her, and found that her’s and her husband’s dates of death had never been added to the headstone. Their names were there, their birth dates were there, but not the dates of their passing….as if both of them had never passed.
I contacted a company in Maine and hired them to correct this. I couldn’t just leave it, for my own peace of mind. Recently, once the work was done, I drove to the cemetery and checked out the work. The company did a wonderful job. Nana’s date of death, after eleven years, was finally on her headstone.
Evelyn R. Harmon
December 27, 1914 – July 2, 2004
Today on Facebook I noted it being Nana’s birthday. I said that not a day goes by that I don’t think of her with love and miss her with all my heart. My cousin Sarah replied to the post; saying’ ‘Nana loves you, too dear.’
It’s exactly what Nana would have said.
As time goes by, more and more days are added to the notion of ‘since she’s been gone’. As time goes by, I learn more about her from others who loved her, and even some who had challenging relationships with her. As time goes by I miss her no less than I did the day she died, and wonder if there will ever be such a thing as closure, or if that’s just a myth when it comes to the deaths of those we love. I’m inclined to think there is no closure. There’s just learning to live with it.
Thankfully, time hasn’t taken the sound of her voice in my head. Thankfully I can still hear her calling me ‘Bradford’ (one of the few to use my full first name). I can still hear her laughter, laced with traces of the Pall Malls she smoked for so many years, even long after she gave them up. I can still close my eyes and see her smile and the sparkling blue eyes the same shade as my own and remember staring into them as a small boy and feeling so safe and so secure and so loved that nothing in the world could ever hurt me as long as Nana was there.
As time goes by, she’s never far from my thoughts or my heart. Each year on this day, I take a break from counting my Christmas blessings, and mourn what I lost eleven years ago.
Evelyn Ruth Harmon. My very first girlfriend. My wonderful companion and protector. My tea-cup confidante. The only person I would give anything to share a McDonalds cheeseburger with one more time.
Years ago, when I was visiting Nana, and she knew I was having a difficult time with my parents’ separation, Nana bought me a comic book to cheer me up. I still have it. It was a Richie Rich.
The world’s richest boy.
The cover got it wrong, Nana. Richie Rich wasn’t the world’s richest boy.
That was me. I was the richest boy in the world.
Because I loved, and was loved by, you.
Happy Birthday Nana.