Saturday morning the Doctor came to discuss where we were at in the process. I have a habit of focusing on the logical aspects of emotional situations (sometimes..) and I found myself entranced by the actual process of what was happening.
I had an Aunt who worked in Hospice so I had her on the phone basically giving me a rundown of what to expect. I had read all their pamphlets and googled the process extensively. So when the doctor came in and took her vitals, I already knew where he was headed.
“I firmly believe today is her day.” he said to us. I had a feeling he was right. Her temp was down to 95. Her BP was barely over 48. Her toes were turning blue and her hands and feet were so cold. I became obsessed with checking her status. Ensuring her apnea was still maintaining, ensuring her hands were covered. Every time the nurses came into take care of her, I would make them move her back to the position she usually slept in or as close to as possible. I was determined to do all I could to take care of her, because I guess I thought if I did this it would make up for all the times I wasn’t there. It would make up for all the times I didn’t call. All the times I didn’t write. All the empty broken promises that I had made her over the years.
I began brushing her hair, singing her songs, reading her articles and stories that I could find about different subjects. I even started rubbing lotion on her skin because it was drying out and I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable.
Saturday went off without much action. Gramps and I were in and out of the hospital. My mother left to take my brother back up to Ocala with her (after my dad drove down to help her). When Gramps and I weren’t there my Aunt Sue would take up post. It became imperative to me that someone was with her at all times. All I could think of was how devastated I would be if she passed without someone there to hold her hand.
Saturday evening rolled around, Gramps wanted to get home early so he could take a nap, and I still hadn’t slept since Thursday night, so I went with him. Saturday was also the day I decided that so long as my grandmother was well cared for (which she was the entire time) I would cling to my grandfather’s hip. He really needed me, we cope in the same way and it was easiest for him to let his guard down with me.
I spent so many nights with my grandparents. Like I’ve said before, they were my rock, my one stable place. Gramps is an early bird. He tends to be in bed about 7-8pm. But Grams would stay up until 1 or 2 am watching English sitcoms. Those were the hours that her and I spent the most one on one time together. We would stay up talking about everything. The last time I had gone to Florida her and I stayed up late talking every night I was there. I learned so much about her. It was the first, and only opportunity I had ever had to actually get to know her on an adult level. And I was amazed at the person she was, the life she had lived.
So, gramps went to bed at his usual time, and I found myself sitting there in her chair, alone on the patio. And that was about the time that I finally broke down and lost it. Everything just came crashing down. She wasn’t there on that patio. She wouldn’t come hobbling out of the back room. I wouldn’t hear her jokingly reprimanding my grandfather for something or laughing at her evil cat. I wouldn’t hear her lecturing me to ensure I rinsed out my dishes and put them in the dishwasher. No more late night ice cream bowls and glasses of chocolate milk. No more hearing stories of her friends or of my childhood. Or hearing her tell me how I should carry a purse.
It was this moment that I realized that I had already lost my grandmother. The woman that lay dying in the hospital was just a shell of who she used to be.
Sunday passed much the same as Saturday. She was still kicking and in fact her BP had actually improved. But I knew it was close. Remember I had done “tons” of research? Many sources said there was a period of increased activity before death. All day Sunday she moaned more, she moved her mouth, her feet and hands would move at occasional intervals. I knew with every move she made that we were getting closer. But instead I pretended she was responding to our conversations and attempting to get involved to the best of her abilities.
Monday morning I had plans to get lunch with my cousin. It was my last day in town and I hadn’t seen her yet. Before I was to meet her though I wanted to go up and say good morning to my grandmother.
Within ten minutes of arriving at the hospital I called my cousin and cancelled. MONDAY was going to be day. Her breathing had changed. It was much more quick and labored. There wasn’t the 30 second delay with a gasp and groan. It was a just a groan. My aunt and I spent the day monitoring her because her face had started to wince and grimace as if she was in pain. They began administering morphine every hour and added another medication on top of it to make her more comfortable. But my time was nearing, I had to leave around 2 so I could go pack and catch my plane back to KC.
I remember everyone was out of the room for a moment; and I leaned in to kiss my grandmother’s forehead. “Grandma, I respect and appreciate that you may want to wait until tomorrow when Jay gets here (everyone thought she was hanging on to see him, he would arriving in town on Tuesday), but Grandma I’m leaving. I have to go back to KC and take care of my boys and I think that it’s been great for Gramps having me here all weekend, but he is really going to need me when you let go. So if you are ready, don’t hang on for us. You go when you’re ready. We will be okay. I promise.”
Emotions were running very high that day as well. My grandfather is a lot like me, he wants to either run away from the situation or think through all the things that have to be done after so we don’t have to face the present. My aunt on the other hand is NOT like that. He and her were bumping heads all day and there was definitely some tension. It even got to the point where her and I had some words. But it was incredibly important for me to A. moderate the situation so that they could maintain a relationship after this event, because grandma would have wanted that. and B. to maintain a relationship with her myself. ( I add this because it’s actually very common for families to fight and argue in situations like this. and we were NO different.)
Finally around 2pm I had to say goodbye. I tried so hard not to bawl as I kissed her forehead and told her I loved her. I again told her that she could go when she was ready and that I promised I would do my best to take care of grandpa. That we all would. I kissed her one more time and I turned my back on the woman that had been there for me everyday of my entire life. The woman who had put herself out there to my mother when I was a young child and offered to adopt me. The woman who showed me her passion for Jesus and her passion for helping others. The woman who taught me how to be classy but still smart assy.
2:32 pm. my Grandfather and I are doing laundry and gathering my things so we can head out to the airport. The phones rings and it’s my Aunt Sue. I just knew. She had let go.
I firmly believe that my grandmother hung on all weekend so that her and I could spend every minute I had together. I believe that she did not want me to see her actually go, and my grandfather had already expressed in front of her numerous times that he didn’t want to see her dead body. So I think she waited until we left, but let go before I got on that plane so that I could be there for my grandfather in the moment.
And she didn’t die alone. She died with her daughter by her side playing her her favorite church hymn.
My grandfather and I talk every day now. It has become incredibly important for me to ensure that he is taken care of and to ensure that I spend as much time with him as possible before his time with us is up. Thank goodness he is a stubborn, healthy old man.
I am still struggling. I cry randomly. I actually feel like I’m pushing everyone away. I honestly just want to be left alone, but I know that I shouldn’t be like that. I’m irrationally angry about everything, which for me means that I’m depressed. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life but I have never felt as depressed as I do now. I’ve never felt as broken and lost as I do now. My chest hurts every day.
I know what they mean now when the say that Death leaves a void in your heart that can’t be filled. It literally feels as though a huge part of my heart is missing.
Because it is.
RIP Gladys Ann Davis. I hope that one day my grandchildren love me as much as I love you.