As I journey on in life and have just passed the half-century milestone; and said good-bye to a few important people over the years as they passed on; I have pondered, “does life mean more to us because we all eventually die?” Are the days and hours more precious precisely because they’re limited? Maybe. Anyone who has lost a loved one before they were ready to say good-bye probably has a definitive view point on this topic.

A recent guest I had on my radio program brought me right back to when I lost one of the dearest people in my life to stroke – my maternal grandmother. She “got” me in a way I felt no one else in life did. I have beautiful and vivid memories of her when I was in elementary school – the two of us picking soft and plump raspberries from her garden. And then making a fresh pie from those berries only an hour later.

We “washed dishes” together, meaning she quietly moved me from the hot washing sink of suds to the sink of rinse water, with my hands barely touching a dish as I rattled on and on about all the things I wanted to tell her in our time together. Grandmother was one of the first to try my first batch of cookies in those early years, and of course proclaimed them divine, being ever the encourager she was of me.

Gram died in 1998 when I was 33 years old. Her stroke took her speech and left her near the brink of passing on. In her final days, her family and friends flocked to her hospital bed to say to bid her adieu. A few hours after she officially passed; a few of us made our way back to the little house that she and Grandpa had made home for decades. We began to contemplate what life would be like without that always spry, strong, and loving woman in our lives.

My sister kept prattling on that Gram was in a better place. Gramps retorted, “I want her here with me! I don’t want her in some better place!”. And he and I both cried our eyes out as the rest of the group sat quietly. A few days later, I spoke words of memory and reminiscence at her funeral; grasping for the right words that could somehow describe the remarkable woman I’d known for three decades. My siblings quietly passed me their notes to speak their words, overcome with their loss. And together, we mourned; and wondered to ourselves how we would ever get by without her.

Surprisingly soon after, I too began to feel her like Marla talks about how her relationship changed when her Mom died. Marla learned she had to learn a new language of connection with her mother, that she’d left her in the physical sense but not spiritually. Similarly, I came to realize that Gram was still with me, too – that she had never really “left me”. She got on the bus with me; and dropped into my office when I went to work. Her presence gave me comfort and often made me smile, or even laugh out loud as I recalled something funny she had said. She was still with me and I palpably felt her presence in so many day-to-day activities. Now, 18 years later, I still carry her in my heart; and am grateful for the gift she continues to be in my life.

If you’ve lost someone special and want to learn to embrace hope and gratitude for that connection; you may enjoy hearing Marla Lackey’s interview. She talks about her experience of losing her beloved mother to cancer and all she’s learned along the way about helping to usher souls into life as a Labor and Delivery nurse and what it’s like to help them leave the earth:

Click Here to Listen to Marla Lackey’s interview