Before my mom left the hospital that day, she said Abuela was reaching for something—something above her, toward the ceiling, toward the sky.
"We call that reaching for angels," my Dad's cousin Pete said when we told him later that day. Pete worked at a nursing home in Florida, and he said he saw that all the time right before someone passed away. Pete's mom, Abuela's sister, had passed away a few months before.
But Abuela had just seen her earlier that week, along with an ex-boyfriend and her mom, all of whom had already passed. She'd seen them standing in the room she shared with Abuelo at the nursing home, and she told him all about it. He had to know it was coming. But he didn't.
"Why are you doing this to me?" he screamed through tears at Abuela's bedside at the hospital. She had tubes in her mouth and nose, various machines beeping all around her. "Why would you leave me here all alone? Without you I have nothing." Then he looked upward and said, "Why God? Why would you do this to me?"
I wasn't there. I didn't witness his breakdown. I wouldn't have been able to handle it. My dad told me all about it.
"I told him he was being selfish. Told him he had to let her go," Dad said. "I said 'You'll suffer for a little while after you let her go. But right now she's suffering. Do you love her enough to suffer so she doesn't have to?'"
Although the doctors got her heart beating again that day, it was too late. She was already gone. Her heart was still beating, and thanks to the machines, she was still breathing. But the frail woman in the hospital bed wasn't my Abuela. It was just a shell of her. The brain damage was too extensive. Day after day, Abuelo sat by her bedside, crying, praying she'd sit up in the bed and greet him with her big smile, ask him to get her the hell out of there.
But that didn't happen. And finally, today, decided to take away her suffering.
"Take her," he said standing next to her bed, looking up toward the ceiling. They'd just shut off the machines. "Please take her. Make it stop." Then he looked down at the love of his life. "It's OK. You can go now."
Hours later, she took her last breath. They were married 51 years, and they taught me the meaning of true love.
Rest in Peace, Abuela.
And this is how I'll always remember you.