Don’t Worry About Me!

by | May 26, 2002 | Giving, God's Hands, Kindness

Steve, his wife Emily, and daughter Madelyn entered the aseptic like room that housed his grandmother and another elderly woman, a smile broadened across her worn but beautiful face.

“Oh, I am so glad to see you all,” she exclaimed with a weakened voice. “We are glad to be in the United States again grandma and wanted to stop by and see how you were doing,” Steve replied.

Steve and his family had moved to Milan, Italy for two years as his job as an attorney had taken them there.

“Emily honey? How are you and that little baby doing?” Emily moved closer to Steve’s grandmother with Madelyn and replied, “I am doing great and as you can see, I have my hands full with little Maddie!”

Emily handed over Maddie who was approaching 10 months old to grandma. “Oh, she is growing like a weed! I bet when Tanya and Brian have their baby in January, these two will be tugging and pulling on each other!” She remarked with laughter in her voice.

“I’m sure they will grandma”, Steve injected as he sat down next to his grandmother and held her hand. “I wish granddad was still around so he could see Maddie and Brian and Tanya’s baby when she is born.”

She glanced over at the pictures of her late husband and smiled. “Good Lord Steve! He’s around and don’t fret over that. Do you understand me hun?” He squeezed her hand snuggly and agreed to not be sad.

She continued to play with Maddie and sing “Up on the Rooftop” over and over again as she enjoyed her great-granddaughter’s laughter.

After about thirty minutes of visiting, Steve and Emily kissed their grandmother and asked Maddie to show grandma how to wave bye-bye.

“She is so cute and those two are going to have a lot of fun together. You know Basil thought the world of Tanya. She’s going to be a really good mother to that little girl. Brian will be a good daddy to her too”, as her voice lilted.

She had continued to refer back to how Maddie and Brian and Tanya’s baby, Olivia, would have such a wonderful time together as cousins.

Steve, Emily, and Maddie had visited for about a week and had celebrated the New Year per usual with grandma, but she seemed more quiet and even stated that she was homesick for her husband, Basil, who had passed away two years before. She made this remark in front of Steve and his brother Brian. Heck, the whole family knew about her heavenly homesickness.

“Grandma, we are going to be leaving soon and I want you to take care of yourself. I love you and worry about you and know granddad would be sick if he knew you were in a nursing home.” His eyes misted as he hugged her and then he felt a gentle push as she distanced him enough to look squarely in his eyes.

“Steve, you take care of your family and be safe going back and this old nursing home isn’t that bad,” she said with confidence.

He knew differently as his mother had told him about how the nursing aides had been mean-spirited with her on many occasions.

The last day in town, Steve and Emily brought little Madelyn over to the nursing home to let grandma play with her again. “Oh, what a time Olivia is going to have following after this little busy body! When is Olivia supposed to born again, hun?” Emily responded, “The baby is due the first part of January, grandma!”

“Grandma, we have to go now so we can catch the flight back to Milan, and we really want you to be careful and to let mom, Brian, or Uncle Bob know if you need anything, okay?”

She smiled and ushered him over to her bed yet again and what would be the last time. “Stephen honey, I have known you since you were born and wiped your little bald hind-end more times than I can remember!” She stated with that sheepish grin and beloved wit that her whole family adored.

She paused to look over at Emily and Maddie and continued with the last words he ever would hear her speak: “Honey, don’t worry about me.”

Only after two weeks in Milan, late one night Emily answered the phone still half asleep.

“Hello Emily, this is your mom-in-law.” Her voice was breaking with emotion. “Is Steve around, please?”

“Yes Mrs. Jett, hold on just a second.” She laid the phone down and told Steve that his mom was on the phone and seemed upset. He hurried over to the phone and asked her what was going on.

Through tears she responded, “Steve, I wanted to let you know that grandma passed away last night and I know you or none of us expected this.” He held his hands to his eyes while leaning forward on the bed and began to weep.

“What happened mom? She was fine just a couple weeks ago when we were in to visit her!”

“We just don’t know sweetheart!” He stood up with the receiver in one hand and the phone in the other.

“Mom, did grandma know that Olivia was born on the 11th?” Calmly she replied, “Yes Steve, I told her just yesterday and she seemed coherent and was so happy. She was so looking forward to singing to Olivia,” she finished as her voice broke with emotion again.

“Did she say anything else?” Still crying, she finally composed herself and replied, “Yes she did. Right before I left last night, she asked me that I not worry about her, and to take good care of myself. She also wanted me to have Tanya and Brian bring little Olivia over when she was released from the hospital.”

“She didn’t get the chance, mom!” Steve quickly echoed with a sound of almost rebuke in his voice. His mother slowed her speech while asking him to calm down.

“Steve, you know grandma well enough to know that she got her chance by just looking in Maddie’s eyes, and by already seeing in her mind them playing together.”

Steve began to weep again as Emily rubbed his back to sooth him. “Mom, I have learned one thing I will never forget. The last thing grandma told me was not to worry about her, just like she said to you. She always thought of others before herself and this is what I will remember the most about grandma.”

“That she did, Steve, and so hold on to those memories. I know you are upset and angry about her not seeing Brian and Tanya’s baby, but please know that I don’t understand this either but God surely knows, okay?”

After a few seconds of silence, Steve began talking again: “I remember when I was a kid, how she would always rub my feet. She always would serve me breakfast every morning when I lived with them that summer while I was in college and tell me not to worry about anything. Every morning before I’d leave to go to that summer job, she’d say, ‘If you worry, don’t pray, and if you pray, then don’t worry.'”

“Steve, you and Brian’s grandma had something many of us don’t and the best way for me to see all of this joy and pain mixed together is by thinking of birth.” Puzzled, Steve asked his mom what she meant by this.

“Tanya and Brian’s baby was born on January 11th, and your grandma passed away early on the January14th. Honey, you see Olivia was born to this world and gave us all much joy, and your grandma was re-born on the 14th and gave the angels and your granddad something to sing about.”

The conversation ended and when Steve hung up, he picked up the phone again and called Brian, who had their baby in his arms when he answered the phone.

“Brian, I don’t know how else to tell you this.” He paused as Brian could tell he had been crying.

“What it is Steve? Is everything okay?” Brian pensively asked. Quietly, Brian heard Maddie cooing in the background as his brother and Emily began singing, “Up on the Rooftop, click, click, click, down through the chimney comes old Saint Nick…”

Brian joined in and finished the song with his big brother. “Steve, it’s grandma isn’t it? She’s not homesick anymore is she?” He asked as his voice tapered off into the beginning of a cry.

“No Brian, she’s not homesick or worried about a thing, and you know what?” “What’s that Steve?”

“You know what she would tell us both right now, don’t you?” Brian paused only briefly before replying, “Yeah Steve, I do. Oh, and by the way, don’t you worry about me brother.”

Steve snickered faintly and added, “Me worry? I prayed right before I called you.”

They both giggled like they were kids again on their grandparent’s pontoon boat some 25 years earlier. The lesson of selflessness had made its indelible mark through the consistent giving, loving, and kind nature of a simple, but highly spiritual and discerning old woman they will forever call, “Grandma.”

By Brian G. Jett © 2005


Don’t Worry About Me!