Not my most eloquent post. This post is fueled by grief and wine and the need to get things out. It is a dose of therapy for me…
I’ve been missing in action for a little while now. I guess its time to get back in the saddle as they say. In the past month I have lost my great aunt, at the age of ninety-eight and a half and my grandmother, at the age of ninety-three (and three quarters but she never seemed interested in fractions of ages. She would just round up to the nearest hundred). While it is comforting to know that both of these amazing, incredible, beautiful women lived such long, fulfilling lives, losing them sucks!
My great aunt seemed to be the picture of good health. In fact her doctor had recently told her that she would live to be a hundred. The blessing with her passing is that she went peacefully in her sleep. No struggle, no suffering, no panic, no fear. Just quietly slipped out of this life and onto the next. I say a prayer of thanks almost daily for that.
When we found out that my great aunt had passed, my grandma’s only living sibling, we knew the loss would be hard on grams. There was talk about not telling her or delaying the news perhaps. Right or wrong, I told her. Ultimately I know it was right to tell her but I suppose there is a part of me that is questioning everything right now. Loss will do that to you. Or at least, it does to me. If I hadn’t told her. If I had spent more time with her helping her grieve. In the end, I know that none of that would have mattered. It was her time.
Gram had been slowing down a lot the past month and a half. I’ve lived with her for a year and some odd months. This summer has been kind of hard on her. Her knees, which have always ached her, seemed to be a daily pain now. Her breathing, while always hampered by COPD and CHF was getting worse. She was tired, more tired than usual, and slept more often. Still, we tried our best to reason it away. She had stayed up late. Too much company. Bladder infection. Humid air. Whatever straws we could grasp at, well, grasp we did.
Then came the falling. My grandmother was not one of those little old ladies who fell constantly. She was fairly mobile until the past month. In August she had started falling. It was disconcerting for sure. She couldn’t give us an explanation half of the time. We’d ask how she fell and she’d say in that haughty tone of her’s, “Well how do you fall? You just fall.” One Sunday night my parents and I took her into the ER as a precaution. Everything checked out fine and she was released the same night. Last week we called 911 for her and I honestly thought it was just a precaution. Check her out, maybe something was acting up but she would be ok. She’d be home in a few days.
When we got the ER it turned out her heart was in AFib. Gotta love smart phones I started googling very quickly. I was relieved to learn it was the most common irregular heartbeat. She was alert and as they got her pulse to start coming down and leveling out she seemed to be feeling better. She told us when we left her that night she was scared. We told her she was fine, get some sleep.
Wednesday was spent mostly hallucinating. She’d come in and out of her hallucinations. Sometimes she would have a totally lucid conversation with people. Other times she was pointing at nothing and telling us “there was something wrong with that dog over there. I think it’s made of cardboard.”
I took our dogs up to visit her Wednesday night. Dane reacted immediately with fear when I put him on her bed. I know that animals sense things but I blew it off. A little bit later I put him back on the bed with her and he sat calmly as she pet him.
Thursday morning I get a phone call at eight minutes after seven. It was my uncle. The hospital had called him to tell him that gram was not breathing so well. They put her on a bipap but that would be the extent of what they could do for her based on her advance directive.
Living the closest to the hospital I was, of course, the first person there. That time alone with her was challenging. She looked so small in her hospital bed. Despite her claims of being six feet tall, her little four foot six inch frame seemed smaller than normal. The mask took up her whole face. A doctor came in but didn’t make much sense. He didn’t have a lot of personality either. I spoke to her night nurse who was much more helpful. My cousin called me mid-breakdown so she could barely make out what I was saying. As soon as she could she told me she was on her way. Somewhere in between all of that a few other hospital staff members came in. A priest came in and gave her last rights but didn’t talk to me.
My aunt and uncle arrived next. Another doctor came in to see us. He was helpful and compassionate. He explained things gently. He told us that had we not done the bipap she would have passed away during the night. He wouldn’t tell us what to do but when my uncle asked what would happen if we removed the mask he told us she would pass within minutes to hours at most. We knew that she wouldn’t want her life prolonged any. If it was her time, it was her time. Once the doctor knew where we stood it was agreed we’d wait for the rest of the family to get up there and say goodbye before doing anything.
True to his words, when it came down to it, Gram passed within minutes. I’m thankful it was peaceful and she was surrounded by family. I know that while she has left this earth, she is still surrounded by family. She joins her husband, two of her children, all of her siblings, and many other friends and family. I miss her like crazy. She was such a large personality in a little body. So funny. So feisty. I still can’t believe she is gone.
Knowing that my grams and her sister are gone… Just sucks.