It was a long drive to the nursing home where my Grandmother was living, but at least twice a month I got into the car with my small children to make the trip to see her.  We had already lost my Mom to cancer and I wanted them to be able to remember Nana.  I wanted to be able to remember her as well, especially because she was beginning to forget me.

Nana had Alzheimer's disease.  It was slowly starting to eat away at her memories. Sometimes she recognized us when we visited and sometimes she didn't.  Most of the time she spent her days in bed, not wanting to be put in her wheelchair anymore to visit the living room or dining room.

On one visit we did coax her out of her room and wheeled her around to visit the nurses and go out into the garden.  After I put her back to bed and kissed her good-bye I started to walk my kids back to the car when suddenly a tiny hand grabbed mine.  "James!", a happy voice said.  I turned and saw a smiling, wrinkled face with snow white hair.  Like my Nana she had Alzheimer's disease but was still able to walk and get around well.  She had mistaken me for her son before.  A nurse told me that he had died years ago.  I held her hands and let her joyfully go on.  Even though her eyes didn't know who I was, I could see the sparkle in them when she spoke to her son through me.

On the visits that followed I always made time to visit her as well as my Nana.  I always got a smile and sometimes even a hug from her.  The nurses told me that she was always calmer and happier after seeing her "Son". Then one day I noticed that she wasn't there.  I spoke to the nurses and they sadly told me that she had died a few days before from a stroke.  I put my head down and went quietly into my Nana's room. 

Her loss didn't really hit me until I had gotten the kids back home.  When it did I decided to go for a walk in the woods.  I looked at the sky, wiped my wet eyes, and asked God to wrap her in His loving arms for all eternity.  Then in a moment of clarity I realized something: for a while I really had been her son.  In this world we are all family.  In this world we are all connected by invisible strings of love.  Even now many years later I thank God for letting me be there for her in the last days of her life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."  Never pass up a moment to share your kindness and joy.  Never pass up a second to share your love.  Take every opportunity to give your goodness to others and to God. Live as if everyone in the world is your family.  Because they are!

Joseph J. Mazzella