Today marks one week since my grandmother, Queen Margaret as we teasingly called her, passed away. While the woman was 93, had a heart the size of a football, was on oxygen twenty four hours a day, and her bones creaked her death still took me by surprise. I don’t know that one can ever really be ready for death.
As I said in a previous post, she had been slowing down. That’s part of the aging process though. She had started falling. That was out of character for her. No one could give us an explanation. So we sought explanations. Tripped on the oxygen hose maybe. Once she had been sitting too close to the edge of her seat and just slid off. The last fall, the last day she was at home was because her knee gave out. Or so she told me.
When I called 9-1-1 that evening I truly in my heart thought it was a precaution. It was not the end. She was very sore from her earlier fall and having sat on the floor for two hours while I was out. She was warm, clammy, and shaking. Well she had a bladder infection, she was overly tired, I had so many logical reasons for her condition. I reasoned away until I was comfortable.
I was further comforted when EMS didn’t seem overly concerned. They said we didn’t have to hurry to the hospital. She was stable. No lights. No sirens. All good signs. Almost made me feel silly for calling. But she was sore I told myself. And the shaking. And the clamminess. Those were not normal. Yes, to be sure, she had to be checked out. Plus she would panic and have a hard time breathing. Which was not entirely unusual but with everything else was cause for concern.
In the waiting room at the ER, I was trying to figure out how long until they were going to admit her. Trying to decide if I would still have time to meet up with my girlfriends for our usual Tuesday night drinks. I knew she was being admitted because the nurses and doctors told us so. Her heart was in afib but none of them seemed that concerned either. They were giving her meds to correct the irregular rhythm and she was starting to feel better. My reason and logic came back strong. As soon as she gets a good night’s sleep and straighten out her pulse she’ll be right as rain.
When I went to see her on Wednesday and she was hallucinating… I was scared. Reason won again though. She hadn’t really slept well since Sunday night. She was on morphine for the pain. Of course she was hallucinating. Sleep deprivation does crazy things to people. It’s why they use it to break down cult members or terrorist interrogations. I was confident when I left and she was laying there peacefully that she would get a good night’s sleep. She would be on the mend Thursday. I had the day off and I was going to spend a good chunk of it up there with her.
I was not prepared for the phone call. Early morning phone calls are never good. It was my Uncle John. Also not a good sign. He’s gram’s power of attorney. He said the hospital had called him and told him that Gram wasn’t breathing so good. He soon broke down into tears. I jumped out of bed, let my dogs out, fed them, threw on some clothes and headed to the hospital.
She was so small in that bed. The mask taking up most of her face. The nurse told me she could go either way. Gram always bounced back. They said as her c02 levels came down she would wake up and be alert. Or should. That was the scary word. However, when the lung doctor came in we learned the reality of it. Had they not put her on the mask, she would have passed away during the night. The mask was the only thing keeping her alive. How did she go from being all together on Tuesday to dying on Thursday? I couldn’t rectify that in my mind. I still can’t in some ways. Other than to say, as trite as it is, it was her time. We knew then we had to let her go. To keep her on the mask when her body was tired and was done fighting was not fair to her. She wouldn’t want that. So we let her go. One thing that really stood out to us when we were in her room with her, knowing she would be slipping away from us soon, was an announcement over the PA. They were paging, “Frankie.” Not doctor. Not mister. Not any other name. Nor did they give a reason. My papa’s name was Frankie. While some may chalk it up to being a weird coincidence at best, it was a comfort to us. Like he was there in some way to take his wife home.
We were there for her last breath. Even then, we knew it was coming, it didn’t seem possible. My gram was larger than life. She was so much bigger than her 4’6″ frame. The idea that she would leave us was hard to wrap my brain around. She earned it. She raised her kids, her nieces and nephews, her great nieces and nephews, her grandkids, and half the neighborhood. She was an amazing woman who will live forever through our memories.
At some point soon I’m sure I’ll write down a few Queen Margaret stories. For now, I’m rehashing them in my head and laughing out loud at the thought of some of her antics. Reminiscing about her with family and friends. Missing her like crazy. And still trying to accept the fact she is gone.