Wind Beneath My Wings…

wbw1Ever since Carter’s diagnoses – I stay up late – A LOT!  My mind wanders all over the place.  I think about what I have done for him and things I should be doing.  I want answers to what the future holds.  I want to be able to take a breath and I want to be re-assured  that everything will be okay.  Each night I not only talk with God and pray so very hard…  I also talk with my grandmother – seeking her wisdom.  You see – my grandmother is no longer with us… however, she is with me always.

My conversations with my grandmother are usually – “please give me a sign you are here with me”…  I usually get a sense of calm come over me.  Once the calm has come over me – I pour my heart out about the day that I had and ask for her advice.  Do I ever hear the advice?  No – I don’t… but it always gets me through the night to talk with her and tell her everything.  I wish every night to hear her… to feel her…

I know that if she were alive today she would love my boys to pieces.  She would love Carter for Carter – no less than any of her other great-grandchildren.  She would hold me so tightly and let me cry on her shoulder when I feel so lost and don’t know what to do.  She would stroke my hair and tell me that everything will be okay and that Carter will be just fine because I am doing everything I can do for him.

Every ounce of my body aches and longs for her…  I need my grandmother so much it hurts….

As I put my pen to paper I am instantly struck with the difficulty I’m having in referring to my Grandmother, Ruth, in the past tense. Her strong presence is still so vibrant, so alive. My Grandmother was a passionate woman. She was passionate about everything. She worked passionately, disciplined passionately and loved passionately. She was a simple woman with grand tastes and grand desires. She died with the family she loved so dearly, by her side.

These are the words I wrote and read at my grandmother’s funeral. It’s been almost 11 years and it is still hard to think of her in the past tense. The disease that took her life was a type of lung cancer. This disease affected my life deeply. I lost my best friend. She had NEVER smoked a day in her life.  My grandmother fought this disease for 7 years… 7 of the hardest years of her life. The last 2 months of her life she spent in the hospital and nursing home. I spent those 2 months with her… almost every moment. I gave up working hard at my job, my personal life… she was all that mattered. I saw this disease take the most beautiful woman in the world and turn her into a pile of bones.

wbw2When I conjure up a vision of my Grandmother, I see a beautiful woman… a lady. Even just a few months ago, although visibly more frail, she was still a very lovely, gracious, and beautiful woman. As she proudly showed off her silver collector spoon my husband and I brought back for her as a souvenir from our honeymoon in Charleston, SC. Her intense will to live, was astoundingly evident. She showed me all of her prized possessions. She walked me down her hallway and pointed to the pictures on the wall. As she pointed to my grandfather, my dad, my uncle, my mom, my aunt, myself ,  my sisters and my cousins she stated, “These are my best gifts of all.” As I awed all the marvels of her endeavors, I couldn’t help being struck by the sheer will of this woman… my Grandmother.

There is one moment that will not stop echoing in my mind. It was a week before her passing, she was going out of her mind. She was tearing the clothes off of her body and I was trying to stop her. She looked me dead in the eye and said “Please help me, Shana, please.” I have never felt so helpless in my life. I did things for my grandmother that I never thought I could do for anyone. I gave her a bath, I fed her, I helped her to the rest room, cleaned her mouth, combed what she had left of her hair, cleaned her opened sores, cleaned up her vomit. I loved her and never thought twice about doing any of those task because I knew she would have done the same for me.

I witnessed her last breath… and to this day it still haunts me.

wbw3I’m reminded of her sense of humor. An inner hilarity not always appreciated by those around her. As I’ve grown and matured, it was my Grandmother’s humor that I most enjoyed about her. She always teased me about staying out of trouble. She would state, “I know it is hard but try.” So, in her dying day I teased her the same. I told her to try to behave and stay out of trouble and she would reply with a beautiful smile on her face, “I know it is hard but I will try.”


Here I am, twenty-five, a breath ago a child myself, and I feel as if I barely knew her. All my memories are kaliedescoping in my minds eye. How I wish I had many more years with her to share so many more memories. But… the memories I have are joyful and full of glee.


I think what I inherited most was her passion and that’s not so bad. Her passion for life, for music, for friendship, and for family.


I’m sad that her great grandchildren will never know her and will forevermore miss all this amazing and wonderful woman had to offer. I’ll miss her eyes, full of love and compassion, her youthful exuberance in playing the piano; I’ll miss her saunter, I’ll miss her appreciation of the finer things, I’ll miss her joy over a great bargain, I’ll miss her genius of things too numerous to count…of things wiser women and men study years and still never grasp. I’ll miss the warm, soft, tight grip of her hand intertwined in mine.


Two years ago, my Grandmother asked me to sing at her memorial. I just agreed because I just knew she was not going anywhere. Now that day has come and I can’t bring myself to utter a single note. But, I will say the words that I would love to sing to her, “Did you ever know that you are my hero? You are everything I would like to be. I can fly higher than an eagle, because you are the wind beneath my wings.” Grandmother I love you so… you are now with the angels… teach them how to fly.

Carter is my child – he is her great-grandchild… a part of her is in me and a part of her is in him… so, regardless of her not being with us in the flesh – a piece of her is inside of us and that gives me comfort every day…   HOWEVER – no matter how many years go by – no matter how old I get – I will always wish to be able to see my grandmother’s sweet smile one more time… and to hear her voice tell me “I love you.”   My heart aches and yearns to have her with me to help me get through accepting autism.


It might have appeared to go unnoticed, but I’ve got it all here in my heart. I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it. I would be nothing without you.  ~ Bette Midler – “Wind Beneath My Wings”




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