The Last Time

Four years, five months, and four days ago was the last time I saw you.

You were laying on a bed in the middle of a hospital room. Well, in the middle of your side of a hospital room.

We continuously took turns walking in and out of the room for three days.

On the first day, I was in my trigonometry class, seventh period. It was like any other day in my senior year of high school. It was a Friday, and I couldn’t wait to go home.

But then I was unexpectedly called to the front office to go home.

I knew that something was wrong when I saw my older brother, Rick, and sister-in-law, Ryan, standing in front of Jeanette, the front desk attendant. I remember seeing them with unreadable, straight faces, and asking what was up. We waited a couple for minutes for Brianna to join us before we headed towards the car.

Nobody said anything until we got into the car, and then Rick said that it was about you. You were in critical condition, and the doctors said that you weren’t going to make it.

I have never seen my older brother cry, until that day in the car.

We all cried in the car on the way to the hospital, and went straight for your room when we finally arrived. That ride seemed so long. My mom and most of my aunts and uncles were already there with you. Nurses constantly walked by, asking us to keep a limited amount of us in the room, and to take turns.

Oh, but they didn’t know the Byrnes. If there was one thing that I knew about my family, it was that the Byrnes are a force of nature. The nurses would ask us to rotate who is in the room, but they didn’t understand that we weren’t going to move. The woman in front of us was the glue that kept this clan together, and we were losing her by the minute.

You were one strong cookie that day. You wanted to wait until Rebecca was home from Delhi, and Joanne came up from Florida, before going. Aunt Erika drove upstate to get my cousin from school, and didn’t make it back until after my sister had already made it there from her plane ride in. I couldn’t believe you waited to make sure everyone was there, but you did.

We thought it was going to be your last day, so we all said our goodbyes after hours of sitting around. There were so many emotions and family members walking in and joining those who were already there. I have never cried for such a long period of time until that day.

I remember waking up the next morning and hearing from my mom something along the lines of, “Nan is still alive, and she’s so mad, that she’s not talking to anybody.” I understand that you wanted to do this on your own terms, and I was so confused. This was such a weird situation, I thought. We had all said goodbye, but you were still here. I wanted to be happy that you were, but you didn’t want to be anymore. You’ve fought this thing for thirteen years, and you were finally giving in. I didn’t want to see you at that point, because I thought our last minutes were the best I was going to get, but I knew that we were going to spend as much time with you as we possibly could.

At the hospital that day, we finally listened to the nurses. We rotated between the hall and your room, but nobody was leaving that hospital. A couple of family members that we didn’t even expect to see that day strolled in and said hi.

Between your kids and grandchildren alone, you had a lot of people in that hospital. But with nieces and nephews, your siblings and in-laws, and friends? It probably looked like you were a grand marshal, and we were your army. An emotional army, but an army nonetheless.

The third day was the tiniest bit easier, I think; you started talking to us again, but you were also so fed up with still being here. Nobody was holding you against your will, but something kept you from going. I wasn’t sure if it was you or the machines, but you were there almost the entire third day.

I was completely drained at that point, because I found myself not being able to cry. I felt like I hadn’t slept in a week, and I was sure that most everyone else in the room felt the same way. That third day, we were all back in the room. Grandpa sat in the chair next to you, my mom, her siblings, and the older grandkids stood around you.

The last time I saw you felt so surreal. I count the last time my seeing you in that hospital bed, in the middle of a white room and almost twenty people standing around you. I remember looking around constantly at those somber faces, and watching them watch you. I have never seen so many tears or people love one single person so much ever in my entire life.

The last time I saw you, all of us held hands and arms and shoulders and just watched you, until your last breath. The room was so quiet, that when your breathing stopped for a minute, we thought you were gone. The room was so silent, that if someone dropped a pin, you would have heard it crash against the floor. But then you took another breath.

I don’t remember who it was, but I remember someone saying that you would try to keep us on our toes. We laughed, because you would, and then fell silent again, until you took your last actual breath.

They declared your passing at 7:25pm that Sunday night.

The last time I saw you was at the end of the longest weekend of my life, and as sad as I was, I knew you were no longer in pain. We spent a lot of our time for the next few days talking about the good stuff, because that is what you would have wanted. Our family hasn’t been so connected like that in a very long time, if ever. And, sadly, we will probably never be like that ever again.

You were the glue that held us together. You raised seven kids while Grandpa worked, and then helped raise seventeen grandchildren, while your kids worked. You spent a lot of your life at home, but you are one of the most selfless, loved, and respected human beings I have ever had the chance to know. You reminded me that our heritage is an essential part of who we are, that it connects us to each other, and that family is the most important thing we have in this world. You did everything that you possibly could have to hold the people you loved together. I am so proud that I got to call you Nanny.

The last time I saw you was four years, five months, and four days ago, surrounded by people who are a part of me. In your last moments, I watched your soul leave your body. A soul so beautiful and strong, that I hoped it would make its way into a new life. I really hope that I get to meet that soul again.

nan collage


Prompt: Write about the last of something: the last time you cried, the last time you saw someone, the last time you listened to music.

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