My maternal grandmother, Edith, died when I was 7 months pregnant with my first-born back in 1995. She had suffered a heart attack in the summer of 1994 and had been hospitalised more or less continuously due to the complications that followed.
One cold night in February 1995, my sister, Frida, and I drove down to see our grandmother at Nyköping hospital, after we had been told that she didn’t have long to live. Being at her deathbed was an amazing, deeply moving and transcendent experience.
As soon as we entered the room, it was clear that she was very weak and I’m fairly she sure she was on the maximum dose of morphine but she was still lucid enough to enquire about other family members. After a bit, she turned and looked at my belly. She told me that I would have a son – I never doubted that she knew because she said it with such perfect clarity.
As we were chatting away about family, it almost felt like we had gotten together for a cup of coffee. However, this soon changed… There was a moment’s silence and then she pointed up to the ceiling and smilingly asked if we could see ‘them‘. I shook my head and just kept stroking her arm. I don’t think I said very much at all. My sister, Frida, who had trained as a nurse’s assistant was busy making sure our grandmother was as physically comfortable as possible.
Grandma asked for a drink and Frida managed to wet her lips with a bit of water. I know now that this was the ‘death thirst’ that happens just minutes before the last breath, but because she seemed so lucid none of us believed that she was really dying that night. It was getting late, so we decided to come back the next morning.
Grandma Edith was still strong enough to raise her arm and wave as we left.
‘Love you,’ we said as we walked out of the hospital room.
‘Love you too,’ she said with a tired smile.
As soon as we got back home, the phone rang. She had passed on only minutes after we left the hospital. My sister and I both believe that it was her choice to wait until we had left.
The funeral service was held a week or two later. It took place on a bitterly cold winter’s day, in the little town where she had spent the last decade or so of her life.
After the service we gathered outside the church to walk together to the place where the funeral party would be held. As we stood there in silence, a yellow butterfly lit on the snow-covered ground in front of us. We all saw it. Some of us pointed and gasped… but we were all too gobsmacked to say anything until the butterfly fluttered off again.
Ten years later, I went to see a medium who lives in the North Stockholm area. The message she passed on from my grandmother was simple:
Your grandmother wants you to know that when you see a yellow butterfly, it’s her.
My grandmother was a survivor. She had a tough start in life and survived 6 years in an orphanage after both her parents died of tuberculosis. A fighter and Freddie Mercury’s number one fan, it made sense that she wouldn’t go without leaving us evidence of her soul’s survival.
Grandma and Freddie are living it up on the other side, I’m sure 🙂