The last week-and-a-half has been probably the most heart wrenching time I remember having in my life. You see, my grandmother passed from this life June 19th and the void in my heart is huge. I have to admit that I am lucky that my grandmother was a huge part of my life and the last family funeral I attended was in 1983. Certainly one expects grandparents to pass away, even when they live a healthy long life. Nothing prepares you for the time that you must say good-bye. You yearn for one more conversation, one more hug, one more kiss – the thoughts churn and churn robbing you of sleep or peace. At some point, a level of acceptance or at least the ability to cope will occur – when is a mystery, but for now I just try to be strong – for my mom, my sister, and my children.
Driving home from vacation, I received the news from my sister, Lisa:
Lisa: Nanny has lymphoma, which they found in her stomach and invaded her spine, paralyzing her from the hips down. It is fast moving.
Me: How long?
Lisa: 2-4 weeks. Hospice was called and is making her comfortable.
The news was jolting, but I did not realize that the initial expectation 3 days earlier was 6-8 weeks. She had tests for a bleeding ulcer, so this diagnosis was jolting. Over the last year, we dealt with dementia and health issues. These either were false alarms or cured thanks to the love of her family, care from the people at the nursing home, and her nurse practitioner and physician. I wished that this was also a false alarm – but it was not, this time it was real and the end was eminent.
Seeing my mother at Father’s Day celebration, the news was even more grim – Nanny is no longer alert, can no longer open her eyes – they are making her comfortable. The last time her eyes opened was after her priest gave her last rites. He turned to leave, she opened her eyes, said “Hi Father,” and went back to sleep. This was the last time her eyes would open. My mother tells me that she is not expected to live through the week.
I took my children over to say good-bye. I know I should be grateful that my girls have a close relationship with their great-grandmother, one that spanned 19 years. I know I should be grateful that I had her in every facet of my life. It is no secret that family was important to my grandmother, and she adored all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. This is a trait handed to my mother, my sister, and me. Something I strive to instill in my children.
The good-byes were difficult as she was essentially unconscious and her breathing was noisy.
My sister called, how is she?
Me: Breathing is labored and gaps between breaths are getting longer.
Lisa: Will she be o.k. tomorrow?
Me: I have no idea. You may want to visit tonight just in case.
My sister and her husband appeared about 10 minutes later. Wanting to give her time, I left with my family. Going home was hard. I was afraid she may not make it through the night. I hoped with all my heart that this was not the end.
The next morning I returned to work. She made it through the night. I was in my office for a few hours before when I received a call from my dad.
Dad: I am just calling to tell you Nanny is declining pretty fast. They are saying minutes to hours – we are all here. No need for you to come, I just wanted to let you know.
Me: I am on my way.
Depending on traffic, I had a 40 – 60 minute drive. I had to be with the woman that helped care for me and loved me. The person that I took trips with, would talk hours on the phone with, cook with. My grandmother was at every event, every family function, every holiday, and every birthday. She was a huge part of my life and very important to me. I needed to get there before she took her last breath – thankfully, I did.
The goodbyes continued. Staff and residents alike came down to say goodbye. She was loved my so many. Tears flowed for this petite woman with beautiful blue eyes, a contagious smile, and a heart of gold. Her three children, my father, my sister, a few friends, and I kept vigil by her bedside. I held her hand, sponged her neck and forehead to help with the fever, and kissed her forehead. This went on all day and all night.
It was now midnight. Everyone left the room to have a snack. It was a long day and we forgot to eat dinner. The staff was nice enough to provide us with muffins, water, pop, and coffee but this was no longer enough. Every time someone would leave to use the restroom, you did not know if she would still be there when you came back. Even running to a fast-food restaurant to grab a few sandwiches was done with angst and concern. Continue reading “Remembering My Grandmother: Not as a Suffering Servant but as a Devoted and Loving Mother By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”