I wondered if perhaps this is what grandmother imagined when she looked out at the ocean. I could see her feet tightly pressed against the rug, clenched toes clutching the loops of the coarse cotton-fibre weave, refusing to release this touch with reality. Her thoughts must have been adrift in the misty, distant horizon of her mind, wondering whether she would wake again as she slipped softly to sleep. Since that stormy night I often wonder about the state of mind the moment one’s inner soul comes to accept one’s frailty of mind and body when inevitable infirmity slowly comes. Like the hands of the family clock, time sweeps by.
It was Easter Sunday. While we prepared for church, Gran was clutching the open catches of her handbag checking for her Bible and gloves. As I placed her prized peacock-feathered hat on her carefully coiffed grey hair, I realized her beloved house, its boards greying, had aged with her. Sitting in her rocking-chair, she softly whispered, as much to the great crest of upright feathers of her treasured hat as to me, that she felt faint. I lifted the front parlour window for fresh, outside air. The clouds parted in the sky. Rays of sunlight streamed in through the glass onto her face. I saw the serenity and joy appear in the black pupils and azure blue irises of her eyes as she beheld the fluttering navy blue iris flower blooms, her favourite flowers in the window-box, blowing in the breeze.
As she gazed upon one fading iris bloom, gradually waning to cerulean, she squeezed my hand. I knew as did she that this was the moment of her finally accepting her own frailness and mortality. I felt her immortal soul’s inner strength in her loving touch transcending time. Her flexible fingers, free from pain, stained by the soothing, healing, melted wax, performed a final, graceful dance over the rosary beads, her lips moving in silent prayer. The spotted, elongated and loosely webbed upper tail coverts of the peacock feathers began to fold. Its fan, once shimmering with iridescent color, changed to the soft crimson hue on her peaceful face in eternal rest. This was her gift to me: a loving memory and sign of our shared blessedness in the bond of grandmother and granddaughter.
I have visited Gran and Pop’s graves in the graveyard as often as I could. They lie buried side by side beneath the headstone on the hillside, down the road from the quaint house which I moved into, married and raised my family. Now, I have grown old. I sit in Gran’s rocking-chair in the front parlour by the window, her shawl across my thin shoulders, her bright, red and blue blanket over my knees, gazing at the ocean. My lips move in silent prayer, as my arthritic fingers, stained by the cadmium yellow colour of the oils from the soothing, healing, melted wax, stroke Gran’s rosary beads.
The rosary beads are my life-line, to hold onto as though to let go were to be left out at sea by the ship, overboard, a solitary soul, adrift in the waves, with the horizon in the misty distance, as the sailing, living souls move on, which is as I imagine.