On Sunday, my husband's grandmother slipped peacefully from this life into the next. She was a talented, fun-loving and kind-hearted woman, with a bit of sassiness to her now and then. Along with her musically gifted daughter (my mother-in-law) she taught me to play the auto-harp, although I never gave those strings the vibrant life that she did. I think I remember most fondly her crinkly-eyed smile and easy laughter, and the attentive, active way she enjoyed listening to and performing music. Some people seem to kind of space out when they enjoy music, but she was always right there with you, in the moment, encouraging you to express yourself or being fully engaged in her own expression.
Because she was the type of lady who didn't want everyone to make a big fuss over her, she had decided to have a simple, small graveside service for her family's farewells. She didn't want to have a big traffic-stopping procession of cars traveling through town from a church to a cemetery. Unfortunately, this is a situation in which Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) rears its big ugly head. The forecast for her Thursday morning service indicates an excessive heat warning, temperatures are likely to be in the nineties by the time her mourners assemble, and while most people will find that swelteringly hot and uncomfortable, for me it would not be a discomfort, it would be a medical crisis. SCI means I can't properly regulate my body temperature; my blood vessels don't dilate properly, my body doesn't sweat the way it should, all the natural cooling mechanisms, and even the sensors that would sound the alarm bells in my brain, aren't working. Within minutes I would start to get a headache, feel sick and thirsty, get confused, and soon after take very ill. By the time my brain got the idea that I might be too hot, however, it would be well into the realm of heat stroke, and it can take hours to cool the body back down, outside of emergency measures like ice baths. Everything I read says it's not safe for me to try to attend the service, and with all that we've been through this year, I've got to play it safe. So my husband, who admittedly faces any kind adversity or sadness more stoically when I'm by his side, will have to stand tall and strong for his mother without me, and face his own grief, and that of his children, without my presence to comfort him. Oh, I'll be close by, probably, in some air conditioned building perhaps, or waiting at home for his return, but when that moment to say goodbye to her comes, I won't be there holding his hand. It breaks my heart. He's been here for me through the toughest of times, and when he needs me, I'll be hiding from the sun and the heat.