I left my body, my home, and my life at 5:14 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon in May, just as the peonies outside turned their faces upward and smiled their brightest smile. One minute I was cutting up peppers and onions for a stir-fry, and the next minute I was on the floor clutching my chest, trying to catch a breath. It took no time at all, and it took forever.
My grandmother came to get me. She was still her tiny, red-headed, no-nonsense self. She held out her hands and picked me up under the arms just like she did when I was a little girl, and I marveled that she had the strength to pick up an eighty-five year-old woman.We rose together, up to the top of the cathedral windows overlooking the kitchen, and looked down at me, or what used to be me since, I was still me, right? I wasn’t sure, this was all so new.
And there I was, sprawled on my side on the wood floor, wearing that ratty old blue sweater, stretchy black pants, and slippers, glasses knocked to the side with the fall, one earring catching kitchen light. A couple of red peppers had fallen with me, and were lying in small strips on top of my torso. It almost looked like one of my early paintings, one which could have been titled Still Life with Back Pants and Peppers.
I looked so very old; wrinkles cut into my skin like pleats on a skirt. Hair thin and faded to a dull hazy winter’s day gray. I felt a rush of compassion for that old woman who had ended up alone on the floor. Still, there were worse ways to die. I remembered all her joys and sorrows, I grieved for all her insecurities and doubts, and I loved her like I had never loved anyone else in my entire life. I knew she had done her best. I knew a few people would miss her quite a lot. And I knew that her body was no longer housing that most essential part of me.
That part of me was being led out the roof of my beloved house, over the tulip poplars and pines, across the river and the mountains, on to some new adventure.
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