I sat there crying, staring at a woman who had just taken her last breath, still, silent and finally free from pain. I cannot forget that day, Dec. 10, 2008, when my grandmother, Anne Fredua-Mensah, passed away in a hospice in South London, England, at age 72. None of us thought we would ever see her in the condition she was in before she died.
Two years prior, in 2006 before my mother and I moved to Texas, we were standing at Gatwick Airport in London, saying goodbye to a very healthy, beautiful, humorous, lovable woman in her early 70s, strong and full of energy. Who would have imagined two years later she would be weak, frail, small in size and barely conscious of her surroundings, cancer trying to take her life.
Grandma and I had a special bond from when I was a baby. My grandparents took me to Ghana, West Africa, for six months while my mother got back on her feet after giving birth to me. I look the spitting image of my mother; however, I also resemble my grandmother. My mother always said that there were some things that had skipped a generation and got passed down to me, like my grandmother’s love for the arts, theatre, drama, dance, teaching, the English language and chocolate. We even have similar characteristics. I count them as blessings.
My mother and I flew back from a vacation in Georgia to be greeted with news that my grandmother was on her death bed. This came as a huge shock to both of us. Naturally my mother immediately rushed to buy a ticket to London. I insisted on coming with her.
The day after we arrived, we went to see my grandmother at the hospital and I could not believe my eyes. This was not the grandmother I had seen all my life, with long hair and gray blue eyes full of life. This was not the woman whose strength encouraged us as a family even at our toughest times. This was not right. Instead, I saw a woman whose life had been extracted from her so quickly that we barely had time to stop and think. When did this all happen?
My grandma had such great class, and it was hard for her to let her children and grandchildren see her in such a weak state. However, there was no way we could be any less than supportive at that moment in time for my grandmother.
I remember being in my grandmothers’s apartment crying on my knees in front of the television. I could not believe I was witnessing someone die. I knew all I could do was leave her in God’s hands. I still had faith that she could live, but if it were her time to go, then I would accept it.
Grandma was a dedicated wife, mother, educator, actress and humanitarian, and even in her last days left simple but extremely crucial advice to my cousin and me.
“Always moisturize your hands,” she said. That is exactly what I do, carrying hand lotion with me wherever I go. Knowing that you could be gone from this earth at any moment, yet find the slightest breath to encourage your granddaughters, is just a tiny token of the care that my grandmother continuously extended to us.
Many have or will lose a grandparent at some point. I encourage you to celebrate their life and remember the advice given to you or the moments you shared with them. The little things that touch your heart make a big difference.
Melissa Aouad is a sophomore communications major from London, England.