I was at home tucked into my bed recovering from a procedure I’d had hours earlier to remove a lesion of abnormal cells when I got the text that something was seriously wrong with my grandmother.
My first instinct was to go; I wanted to be there with my mom. But I couldn’t go; I had to take care of myself. I would be no good to anyone if I didn’t take the time I needed to recover. I did my best by text to help mom manage the situation with the nursing home staff.
By the time I did get to the nursing home the following evening grandma was essentially comatose. She would open her eyes and cry out in what we assumed was pain because soon after the staff gave her a morphine injection she would settle again.
We sat vigil for a week with this woman we all loved sharing stories, memories, holding her hand and praying she would go peacefully.
It wasn’t that we wanted her to go but she had endured much over her lifetime being a divorced single mom raising two children and being active at church on top of working full time. She wore her heart on her sleeve. She never said no. She gave more than she ever got and we all loved her. We were devastated when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and we watched helplessly as she slowly slipped away from us and, though we sometimes shared laughs when she was confused, we cherished even more the rare moments when she was with us and could join in the conversation. It was a relief when she got a bed in long-term care because she would get the care she needed but we could visit and spend time with her.
It was time.
We all slept with our cell phones turned on that week. We shared tears over our imminent loss.
One week after that first text she took her last breaths. She passed away with her two children and me at her bedside. It was a relief but it was still incredibly sad.
I lost my grandmother, a woman who had been an anchor in my life. We had always shared a love of music and musicals and had been single, working mothers generations apart and I would always be her nurse. She had babysat my brothers and me and then she babysat my daughter. She was special.
I had the opportunity to speak at her funeral. I didn’t think, at first, that I could get up and speak without breaking down. I did it and have no regrets.
Her death, a cancer scare and the loss of a much loved boss of eleven years all in the course of three months does change a person. Change in life is inevitable and unavoidable. When we’re young we don’t realize how much change we will endure in our lives. We will suffer loss and we will grieve those losses.
It is what we take away from the loss and grief as each teaches us a lesson even if we can’t see it right away. We will make decisions that will have a ripple effect. I went on to choose, in light of some of those abnormal cells being malignant, to have a major surgery to eliminate a future of anxiety and the threat of the cancer returning.
I have only now, a year after her death and four months after my surgery, with the small green tips of my daffodils beginning to peek through the soil in my garden, begun the process of change and renewal in many aspects of my life. It has all helped me to better define where I go from here.
I feel hopeful again.