My grandmother died tonight at about 20 'til 8, shortly before I arrived in Chattanooga. I got word that this might happen this evening, but where I am and where she was are 2 hours and change apart, so I did what I could to get there. I got there "too late" for some people, but let's be clear; she hadn't really known who I was for a while, and so much of what made my grandmother really my grandmother had slipped away in the last six years. The main reason I needed to be there was to experience things for myself and say goodbye even if she left her body a little before I got to it. So I got to do that tonight, then turned around and came back home. It's important to me that I was there.
And for my kids. My kids will believe me when I say that I saw, and will tend to question what people tell me over the phone or other ways. Good kids - they're handling it well, and their mom told them before I got home when they were all wrapped in towels and warmth from recent showers. A good plan. A good mom.
My grandmother, when she was at her peak as I knew her, would keep up a running commentary of her activities - you'd hear a near-constant narrative of what was going on right now spliced in with some stream-of-consciousness from inside her head, all of it sharing space with the conversation you were having with her at the time. I never thought I would miss that, and it turns out that I was mistaken.
We will likely inter her ashes sometime over the next couple of days in a memory garden in Chattanooga right next to my granddad's, which have been there since 2004. Once the process of formal goodbyes is finished, the memory-sifting and proper mourning will begin, but for now, I'm content to have made the drive back-and-forth so near the end and then after it was all over.