My Nanny loves country music. She turns on GAC and listens all day, even though she does not prefer these young kids and their "new" country. She still listens though. Though she rarely plays anymore, she used to play the piano for her church, and when she hears about Johnny Cash, or other famous singers who die, she says, "I've got to go get changed. They'll be wanting me to play for his funeral."
I'm sitting next to my Nanny, filing her nails for her, even though I do not file my own and don't really know how to wield this particular weapon. I think I'm doing a passable job, and she is pleased, I think, with the attention, the reminder that she is still a physical being with physical needs. She sits on the couch with her legs up on Papa's wheelchair seat, the left one so swollen she says, "I'm afraid it's just gonna bust right open one of these days." Mama and I are talking back and forth, she in the kitchen, me on the couch, talking about some song we'd heard at church that morning and the necessity of brass quintets on Easter. After we both agreed on how much we love "Christ, the Lord is Risen Today," Nanny half-mumbles that she rather likes George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
When I agree that it is a really fine song, she says, "I always think of that fellow whenever I think of that song. Did I ever tell you that story about Bill Bunch and his wife up at church?"
"I don't think so. I don't remember anyway."
"Well, he lead the singing, and his wife played the piano."
"A young guy, Nan? Or older?"
"He's maybe a little younger than me. We's all about the same age up there. Well, there they was, doing the music, and before long she and the preacher left their people and decided to get together. And Bill Bunch liked to never get over it. Later when he died, I said, 'Well, he stopped loving her today.' Not until he died did he stop."
My Nanny sleeps almost all day on April 26th. I go to the farm that evening because we know her time is close. I want to tell Nanny that George Jones has died, but I don't want to wake her. I don't want to alarm her. I want to tell her she'll get to play for him in heaven. My sister and her family arrive late, around 10:30, and Nanny wakes up a little. My sister goes in first, I follow. Nanny sees us and smiles. She smiles because her "angel" and her "pretty girl" are there. Earlier in the week, she smiled at my brother and later told Mama, "I've been talking to David" as though that was her heart's desire. And it was. She is loved.
I read an article about the life and death of George Jones and learn he was born on September 12, 1931. My Nanny was born on September 13, 1929. I know I have the date right because Mama asked me to work on her obituary a few days ago. I smile.
Nanny died early this morning at home with my mama and daddy by her side. I am so glad I got to spend these last years as close to her as we have been. I'm so thankful my babies got to be held by her as infants and to watch Wheel of Fortune with her as children. I'm so thankful she is now at rest. And though my Papa's dementia has kept him from recognizing her and will keep him from understanding her death, I know he won't stop loving her until he joins her - and George - in heaven.