I’ve been thinking a lot recently about listening to my inner guidance and trying to hear the messages out there for me. I’ve been through quite a few emotional challenges this month, both of the inspired and heartbreaking kind, and both requiring deep reflection.
It made me think of my long-lost guidance system when I was a little girl: my Nanny.
My Nanny (mom’s mother) was my whole world. She was sharp as a tack, an ambitious woman ahead of her times, a world traveler, and a loving inspiration. I would spend hours upstairs listening to her stories about how life used to be, and all of her adventures, and I would just be in awe of her. A cup of tea and a good story—I could always count on Nanny to brighten any day and help solve a problem I was having.
For 18 years, I knew how lucky I was to have such a strong, healthy grandmother in my life, as my other grandparents passed or became ill, and friends around me were left without any. I took for granted that she would always be there—but never imagined that she could be still here with us, but not really “here.”
The day she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I was absolutely devastated.
I mean, the signs were there—she would forget where she put her laundry or throw her spoons in the garbage instead of the sink, or neglect to pay bills—something she was always on top of. This brilliant, intelligent woman was slowly losing her mind, and soon, her faculties.
Since she lived with us, I had to watch her disintegration day by day. It was horrifying and heart-breaking. There was even one day where she had gotten dressed and left the house to catch the bus to go to work—luckily, we found her before she boarded that bus. She was so confused; she had no idea that her reality was not the same as ours. And as the short years passed, and the disease took over quickly, she soon spoke less, forgot our names, and struggled to recognize our faces.
Eventually, her body was just a shell of the woman she used to be.
There was little indication she knew any of us when we would go to visit her in the nursing home we inevitably had to place her in for her own safety. So much was going on in my life, and with no more cups of tea and sage advice, I felt so lost.
Except this one day. I had gone by myself, something I rarely did, to talk to her about a big decision I had to make. My heart was against it, but I felt obligated for family reasons to choose a different path. I told her, thinking that it was lost on her comprehension, but knowing all I needed was her to listen. But what happened next took me by surprise.
After I told her my story, she grabbed my hand, looked me straight in the eye, and with such eloquent clarity, said, “Don’t do it, baby. Please.” Her message was so clear. She was speaking to me, her granddaughter.
In that moment, she knew me. She knew my problem, and she was giving me advice.
Advice I did not take at the time. Reflecting back, I know I should have listened, as she was right. I should have chosen a different path, though everything happens for a reason, and the outcome was meant to be part of a bigger picture.
But I will never forget how in my time of need, she fought through a debilitating mental disease and found the clarity to give me the wisdom I needed, as only she could give. Alzheimer’s was not going to stand in the way of her helping her granddaughter, and for a single moment, I treasured being with my Nanny as she was throughout my whole life. It reminded me that no matter what, she would always be there for me.
And now that she has passed, whenever I am faced with a problematic choice, I close my eyes and listen for her “Don’t do it, baby” or I find her wisdom in a cup of tea encouraging me to be brave; that que sera, sera; this too shall pass.
And this time when I hear her, I listen.