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October 15, 2012

Carried on: In the Heart of her Hand

The following essay by Ann Ritter is one of those experiences whose memory stays with you for life.  
The details speak for themselves. Enjoy....




by Ann Ritter

My grandmother died with my name in her hand.

The heart attack hit at the counter of an ordinary motel café. It was an August morning; she was traveling home from a visit to family in coastal Virginia. Later that day, she would have arrived with gifts for all of us: plastic name-tag pins. 

One year before, she and I each took our first plane trip. Mine was to New York with my parents, hers to Texas to see her oldest living grandchild graduate from college. I asked her if she was afraid of flying, to be so high off the ground. She said, no, she was excited to try something new. I told her I was petrified. Her flight was smooth and full of sunshine, mine plagued by storm winds, lightning, and repeated circling of the airport before we could land. I was afraid the plane would run out of gas.  

Soon after our trips, I began fifth grade. I learned of Icarus and wrote a report on Pompeii—ordinary people caught and held forever in their last actions by volcanic ash.
Grandmother had risen from breakfast, as usual a little short of breath. With coin purse in hand, she arrived at the counter and saw the display. To the sales clerk, she praised the motel’s grits for its lack of lumps as she pulled each name from the revolving rack. She had just reached Ann with no “e.” A sharp pain took her breath, turned her lips blue, sent her body to the floor like a stone. The medics uncurled her fingers to see the red pin resting just so. Ann.

“You didn’t ask her to come with you if you didn’t mean it,” said the niece who accompanied her on that last trip. “She would say, ‘Just give me an hour to pack.’”

At 78, Grandmother had never learned to drive. But she loved to go, and because of this, was “sought after” by many of us as a traveling companion.

“I thought she would live forever,” the niece said.

So did I. To this day, I miss her, still.

I always will be uneasy in the air. But fear will not keep me at home. I am propelled by Grandmother’s last image she saw in her mortal life:  Ann.

I journey to Peru, Ireland’s West coast, the Olympic Peninsula, California, the deserts of New Mexico. On every day, through each place, I travel with her heart. 

Essay, copyright Ann Ritter, all rights reserved. 

To see more of Ann's work:
Miriam's Wake

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