I thought she was dying. Just moments before, we were all around the fire pit, roasting marshmallows and making heavenly, melty s’mores. On the rugged trail back up to our vacation mountain house, my 92-year-old Grammy suddenly fell backward, landing with an ominous, dark thud. It took my brain about seven seconds to realize this…was…not…good.
I rushed to her side and sent my husband to call 911. Her breathing was labored, raspy, and gurgling. Her eyes were open and vacant. She was definitely not there. I spoke to her in soothing tones, implored her to keep breathing. The grandkids huddled on the deck above, watching with wide eyes.
I thought, “This is it. She’s had a stroke. No way can a 92-year-old survive her brain bouncing off her skull like this.” We all held our breath, and time stood still.
A few minutes later, fear suddenly flooded her face, and she whispered, “I can’t move.” Then, “I can’t hear,” as we noticed her hearing aid had been flung off in the impact of her fall. My mom, brother, and I gingerly sat her up and waited for the ambulance to wind its way up the serpentine mountain roads.
The next hour was full of Grammy’s gradually louder assurances that she was fine. She sat propped up in a chair in the house as five EMT’s circled around her, checking her blood pressure and pupils. Remarkably, she really did seem fine, albeit a little loopy. She ruffled EMT Donna’s hair and tried to dance the cha-cha with EMT Robbie.
Grammy declined being transported to the hospital, preferring a glass of wine and a hot bath before bed instead. She was a bit sore the next day but continued to insist she was JUST FINE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. My husband suggested getting her a trophy that said, “Tough old bird.”
Although this story has a happy ending, it was one of those slow-motion, underwater moments that will replay in our minds like an old-timey home movie. It’s etched into our timelines now, that moment when the life briefly left Grammy’s eyes. Like air out of a balloon, a reminder that life can leave our physical bodies at any time. We are vulnerable, we are mortal. We are all destined for stardust.
My husband and I sat on the deck that night and tried to make sense of what we had witnessed. As we talked, fireflies flickered against the mountains and the breeze gently ruffled the trees. Such beauty in that tiny moment. It dawned on us, that’s all we have: This Moment. Right here, right now, is the beginning, middle, and end. Be here, be present.
I wanted to shout it from the mountaintops.