Sunday Gratitudes on a Tuesday
On Saturday my twin sis called me. Grandma had fallen a few days before and had deteriorated rapidly. Within an hour I had my suitcase packed and was headed to the airport.
Sis picked me up and gave me details. It had been decided that Grandma would be taken to my brother and sis-in-loves home where she could be surrounded by love for her last days on earth. We arrived at St. Joe's where Grandma was currently being cared for until she could be transferred. She was awake, incoherent, and in pain from cellulitis. My uncle and cousin gave Grandma a beautiful priesthood blessing, telling her that the her life was well lived and her transition would be peaceful.
We drove to Mark's house to see what we could do to help prepare. His house was ready, so we headed to my parent's house next door. While Mom and Daddy are on their mission, Nate had been house-sitting. Most of my family was there, preparing it for any visitors who might need a place to stay. We cleaned until late at night. Christie and I went out for dinner before we headed to her house.
I couldn't sleep that night. My mind wouldn't shut down. I thought of so many good times I've had with my grandma.
The next morning we headed over to my Mark's house to wait for hospice to deliver the hospital bed. The bed was late and arrived at the same time as the ambulance did with my grandma. The EMTs were so kind. They waited while the bed was set up and very carefully brought Grandma in the house. Later the first hospice nurse came by with morphine to make Grandma comfortable. I hovered, listening with twin-sis and sis-in-love as instructions were given on what to expect. It took a while for the medicine to kick in. Grandma opened her eyes a few times. Once in a while it seemed that she knew what was going on. I asked Nate to get his guitar to play for Grandma. She opened her eyes and said clearly "Yes." The remainder of the time she was not able to communicate but held up her hand which we would hold. Christie and I sat by her most of the evening, each of us holding a hand.
Christie, Mark, Kimberly, Nathan and I sat up late that night in Grandma's room, talking and laughing about the good times. One of the funniest was that each of us had a story about how we found Grandma's secret stash of candy - we each thought we were the only one who knew where it was. We also talked about sliding down the cutting board when Grandma put it next to the fireplace (she had a piece of counter board left over from when she cut the space out for her kitchen sink that she used for a gigantic cutting board. It made a perfect slide for little kids). How much we all hated shucking corn and we thought it wasn't fair that Christie didn't have to do it. (Christie had horrible allergies. What we didn't know is that she was made to work inside the house shelling peas or getting the kitchen ready to process the produce). At one point I leaned over to Grandma and said "Grandma, when you see Grandpa, you run. You run, do you understand?" Christie leaned over on the other side of Grandma and said "Make she she understands that she is supposed to run TO Grandpa and not AWAY." We started laughing so hard. And then Nathan pointed out that Grandpa might be riding Joe (his beloved horse) when he comes. There were a lot of good memories. Yucky rolls (truly delicious Sunday rolls but the family joke was to call them Yucky). Three kinds of homemade pickles in the cut glass pickle dish at every Sunday dinner and holiday. Homemade ice cream (we all had to list our favorites). Being sent out to pick beans for dinner. Popcorn balls at Halloween. (I made sure that my kids, Mr. W, and I were the last family to come every Halloween so I could get all the extra popcorn balls. I would give each of the kids one and save the rest for myself. I would break them up in a bowl and pour milk over them and eat it like cereal for breakfast.) We though that Grandma might leave us that night so I stayed up along with Nate all night. Grandma's breathing followed the pattern that hospice told us would be the end. But then before sunrise her breathing went back to just being shallow. Nate went back next door to sleep. I stayed up to help Kimberly.
That morning, hospice aides came to check on things. We were told that Grandma would most likely pass in the next 24 hours. The day was filled with visitors, violin music from Tiffany, guitar music from Nate, and my parents calling on SKYPE so they could talk to us. It was the first time in a long time for them to see Grandma. My heart broke for them, but I knew that they had to remain in Africa. We were all at peace with that decision. (for my mom's account of what happened, see her DR Congo blog).
My flight left that evening and I had to go. I was in tears, selfish tears as I knew that it would be so wonderful for Grandma to see Grandpa again. I hugged all of my sibs and my uncle. I didn't want to leave - I wanted to do my part in helping. I cried all the way to the airport. Again selfish tears.
I was so exhausted when I arrived home. Mr. Wonderful and I sat the kids down and told them about Grandma. We shared happy memories (playing with Grandma on her swing, eating her cookies, having lunch at her house, picking raspberries) and a few tears. I ate a quick meal and went to bed at 8:00. I slept deep and woke 10 hours later. There was a message on my answering machine from my sister that Grandma passed in the night. My brother Nate was with her at that time and, miracle of miracles, my Mom was on the SKYPE. She was on the other side of the world and still able to be with her mom during those last tender, peaceful moments.
So my Sunday gratitudes are posted on a Tuesday. I am so grateful for my knowledge of where my Grandma is right now. I'm grateful that I will see her again. I am grateful for all of my family who surrounded her with love in her last days. I'm grateful for Mr. Wonderful, who insisted I fly out there immediately, and took care of things at home. I'm grateful for the hospice workers who all showed such kindness to my grandma and my family. Most of all I am grateful for Grandma. The woman who taught me all about whole foods and nutrition by her example. She passed down her knowledge about gardening and canning through my mom to me. She served others with every waking moment.
Selfish tears. Because I' am going to miss her so much.