She just couldn’t get the smell out of her nostrils. The pungent smell of ammonia they use in hospitals seemed to cling to her senses like cloying tentacles that spread far into the reaches of her being. It was as much as she could do to stay in the small waiting room adjacent to where her grandmother was asleep.
It didn’t seem fair, she mused, trying her best not to cry. Her grandmother was the light of her life. Always there, always loving, never a cross word - but always sage advice. But now she lay dying. Deep in her heart, she knew that it wouldn’t be long now. Her grandmother’s breath came in short sharp gasps – clinging to a life that she had known for over eighty years.
The thought, ‘What am I going to do without her?’ kept repeating itself in her mind. Her heart felt like it was being ripped from her chest in anticipation of her pending loss. She clicked open her phone and scrolled through her emails and pages of social media dross – none of which provided any solace. She even rang her best girlfriend, but all she got was her answering service. She closed the phone and stared at the clock on the wall, but the hands didn’t seem to move.
Two doctors walked passed, deep in conversation. They didn’t even cast a glance at the girl sitting alone on the hard plastic chairs. I guess they thought she wasn’t sick, so her pain was none of their business. To hell with this, she thought as she stood and strode with reluctant purpose to the entrance to her grandmother’s ward. As best she could, she shook aside her feelings of dread, placed a forced smile on her lips and entered the room. Her grandmother smiled straight away when she saw her granddaughter.
“Grandma, how are you?” she asked as nonchalantly as she could.
The smile lingered on the old woman’s wrinkled face. “Oh, you know dear, every next breath is a good one.”
The two looked at one another across an expanse of love, but not really wanting to address the large elephant that stood in the corner of the room.
“How’s school, dear? Are you doing okay? Did you pass your exams?”
“Yes, I did,” she replied, happy to have something to talk about other than what was plain before them.
“Oh, I’m so proud of you, you know that, don’t you?” said the old woman as she coughed a little while extracting the words.
A nurse then came in to check the monitors, tick the chart and pass over a smile. A pregnant silence fell between the two until she left. All at once, the young girl could hold them back no longer. A tear squeezed itself from the corner of her eye … then they became a flood.
“Ohh, grandmother, what am I going to do without you?” Don’t go, please don’t go. I’ll be lost without you. What will I do?”
The old woman felt the pain of her years press upon her like a stone, but she lifted her feeble arms and wrapped her kin next to her emaciated chest until her tears dissolved to small gasps for breath.
“My child,” she said, “ can you do something for me?”
The girl looked at her beloved nanna with eyes that didn’t need any words.
“I want you to go outside into the park. You know, the one out front of the hospital. I want you to pick some of the nice flowers for me. You know the type I like. Just like those I have in my garden. Can you do that for me, dear?”
Happy to have a task full of purpose, the young girl stood up and squared her shoulders. “Sure, I’ll be right back.”
The young lady hurried down the maze of corridors and out into the bright afternoon sunshine. Her objective became clear when she saw the requested blooms and picked the best flowers she could find. Clasped them in a bunch and made her way back across the road. As she did so, a lady was pushing a severely disabled young boy in a wheelchair. The many greying strands of her hair and the lines of wisdom spreading at the corner of her eyes said that she had traversed some years of life’s rocky roads.
“They’re nice, flowers, dear,” said the lady as she smiled.
“Yes, they are, aren’t they! They’re for my grandmother.”
“Oh, said the lady, “Aren’t you a nice girl, giving your grandmother flowers like that.”
“Ah, thanks,” replied the girl as they made there way back towards the entrance. They strolled in silence for a moment until the young girl asked, “Is this your son?”
“Oh, no, dear,” the lady responded with a smile, “I’m his grandmother. But it’s nice of you to say.”
They entered the hall of the hospital and once again the girl’s nose twitched at the now familiar smell as they walked towards the elevator.
“It must be quite difficult raising a child with a disability like his,” she asked with a look of empathy towards the young man.
“Oh, I don’t know,” replied the older lady. “I find that as I get older I come to appreciate the more important things in life.”
The girl looked at her strangely as she pressed the button to summon the elevator. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Well, as a grandmother, I can think of no better gift to give my grandchildren as much love as I can. After all, I’m not going to be here forever. Do you know what I mean?”
The elevator arrived and they stepped inside the empty compartment. “Yeah, I guess so,” replied the girl. “I guess it’s like me and my grandmother. I mean, she has been so wonderful to me. I don’t know what I’ll do when she’s gone.”
The older lady smiled. “Oh, don’t worry, dear. I’m certain that the love in your grandmother’s heart is the same as in your own. That’s how it works,” she added as she placed a loving hand on top of her grandson’s head. “Love transfers across the generations, didn’t you know?”
At that same very moment, the elevator reached its destination and the older lady pushed her grandson’s chair out of the sliding doors. “It was nice talking to you, dear. I hope your grandmother likes her flowers.”
The elevator doors closed behind the lady’s smile as she hastened towards her destination.
As the elevator reached the next floor, with flowers in hand, the now eager young lady came bounding into her grandmother’s room with a beaming smile.
“Oh, they are so lovely. You picked just the right ones. I knew you would,” said the old lady. “You are such a good girl.”
“Nanna, you’ll never know what just happened,” said the lass as she placed the flowers into a vase. “I was just talking to this nice lady and she said that love transfers through generations. Is that true …?”