A couple weeks ago I got a phone call from one of my sisters telling me to hurry over to my grandparents' house ("NOW!") because it looked like he had only hours, perhaps just minutes, left to live. That afternoon and evening we sat around my grandfather's bed, crying, laughing, praying, reading Bible passages, telling stories, whispering our goodbyes into ears we weren't sure could hear, hugging and kissing the unconscious form we had been held so lovingly by for all our lives.
His breathing improved instead of getting worse as the night wore on. Eventually most of us decided we needed to go home and get some rest, since it looked like he could carry on in the state he was in for many more hours, or even days.
When I came back the next morning, he was still breathing, and continued to do so all that day. There were several moments where we thought the end was near, but mostly we sat in the room that had always been "Pop Pop's puzzle room," talking about anything and everything. I ended up spending the night that night and falling asleep for a few hours in my grandparents' bed, in Pop Pop's place next to my grandmother. We were shakened awake by the hospice nurse, who said we needed to go to the puzzle room right away. He had gone quickly and suddenly.
But all during that last day while we sat around talking and holding vigil, I kept my hands busy. I brought some elastic string and some purple beads with me and I threaded the beads onto the string, one by one, as the hours ticked by. I'd brought them thinking it would be something to keep my hands busy, since sitting still in one place can sometimes be hard for me. What I didn't realize is that what started as a way to pass the time became something incredibly sacred.
Though I can't remember what we talked about that day, and the sight of his thin, pale face as he lay there in the middle of the room, all of us in chairs around him, is beginning to fade already, I still have the bracelets I made that day. Each bead was threaded in those last precious minutes with him. Each bracelet represents the almost holiness of the room in which one of the men I loved most breathed, in and out, in and out, in and out, during those last minutes and hours.
"Like a rosary," my friend said, when I told her about it on the phone today. Yes, I guess it's a bit like that. All I know is that those bracelets are more sacred than almost anything I own. The cost of the materials was under $5 but those simple purple bands are now priceless.
Yesterday I was going through some emotional pain, but I also had several friends on my mind, all of whom are also suffering pain of different kinds that I feel helpless to ease. And then I remembered the bracelets I made while keeping vigil beside Pop Pop's bed. I pulled my string and beads out again with an idea.
For hours I sat on my bed stringing bright pink beads on elastic string, one by one, and with each bead that I added, I said something either aloud or in my head. Prayers of a sort, at times. Expressions of love. Each bracelet represented a person, and it took a good five to ten minutes to string each one, so I was able to say many, many things to and for each person that I had in mind.
At first I "prayed" one bracelet for the several friends whose pain I am so aware of. Then I kept going and made more for others in my life. Things I see in them. What I hope for them. How sorry I am for hurting them. Thanking them for being in my life.
The sentiments that came to mind or out of my mouth as I threaded the elastic through each and every bead were things like:
Those are just a few of the things I "prayed," for lack of a better term. Tears poured down my cheeks through most of the minutes I spent doing this. And then as I tied the end of each finished bracelet to itself to form the bracelet, I said, "I tie myself to you. I love you. I will always love you. I will never stop loving you.""You are so strong and I want so much for you to feel that strength."
"I am so sorry; I was doing what I thought best but now I see that I hurt you so much."
"I hope you can have the courage to take the next step in your journey, no matter what others think."
"I love your sensitivity and cuddly little girl ways."
"I'm sorry I have made you feel that you are too much."
"I want to mirror you to yourself so you can see how gorgeous you are."
"I want you to walk your journey, even if it's away from me."
"You love so fiercely."
"I don't know where I'd be without your friendship."
"I want for you to have a 'nest' of your own making."
"I wish you could see my 'I'm sorry' in my eyes."
"I love you so much."
"When I imagine you acting and living without fear, I weep, because you have NO IDEA how bright you shine."
The exercise of doing this was one of the most moving experiences I've had in a long time. The words that came out were words that said what I have thought and felt about these dear ones, but in many cases, never verbalized. I was also startled to find that some of the feelings I had toward those I was praying to/for had never even come to the surface of my consciousness until then. I was saddened that, though I try so hard to mirror those I love to themselves, that they might see what I see and feel what I feel as I experience them, I have not said MOST of the things to them that I found myself saying to their bracelets.
Today I've worn the bracelets and have felt a funny closeness to each one of those people for whom I made a bracelet. The things I said to them are things that, in many cases, I am going to find an opportunity to tell these dear ones, as soon as I can. Though I stopped praying to "God" years ago, I have for awhile now told friends and family that I "hold them in my thoughts," and I do. Often I imagine pulling them into an embrace. Some say they can "feel" that, even from far away. All I know is that it feels like loving them. Making these bracelets in the way I did felt not just like an embrace of them, but like an intimate conversation with them and their spirits, and it felt so good and so right.