Saying Goodbye Part 3

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 isĀ  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.

 

 

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Saying Goodbye Part 2

That first night was a doozy.

I severely underestimated the effect being there with my grandmother would have on me.

When we got to the hospice door we were locked out. I had a mini moment of panic that I wouldn’t be able to get in to see her, but after a few phone calls inside a security guard finally came and let us in.

It was oddly empowering really, to be the one to hold her shit together and put a smile on her face. I felt like I was helping everyone around me, their smiles less feeble as the minutes wore on. All except my brother, who was very obviously hurting so very much.

When we got off of the elevator on the hospice floor I allowed everyone to continue on except for him and I pulled him to the side.

“Look at me,” I said. And he looked into my face like he had done so many times before when we were little and I was the sun and moon that taught him how the whole world worked. He was much taller this time, of course, but I knew in this moment I needed to be his big sister. “When we go in there, you have to remember that it isn’t her. This isn’t our grandmother that we know and love. When we walk in there you flood your mind with every good memory you have of her and hold those really close. It isn’t going to be pretty, you will never forget this, but you have to let the good times outweigh this.”

I think I was more trying to convince myself than him.

The hospice ward was really a very peaceful place. Surreal almost as you walked by each door knowing the person inside the room would soon be dead. We got to her room, and honestly it was probably the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever seen.

My grandmother has always been a jolly person. Full of life and happiness. Her eye sparkled (I say eye because one of her eyes underwent a bad lasik surgery and was covered by a glass eye.) and her cheeks were always full of color.

But the woman laying in that bed was not like this at all. Her mouth was hanging open, a breathing tube tightly wrapped around her to keep it in place below her nostrils. Her glass eye refused to close no matter how often you tried to make it. I’ve had dreams more clear than this moment.

I’m not sure why or what overcame me, but as my brother broke down beside her bed I began to talk. I kissed her forehead, smiled and told her I had made it. I thanked her for hanging on until I got there. They had placed in her a medically induced coma, so it wasn’t that she could respond. But I just felt that she could hear.

After a few moments my mother and our friend came into the room. I made a few jokes, we recited a few memories. We caught up a little with her there in the room. Hoping to ease her spirits some. My grandfather was exhausted and declared that he was heading home, and it was about this time that I had made my final decision: I was staying the night. There was no way I was leaving her side. I just remember thinking, what if she dies and no one is here?

It was probably about 2 am when my mother, brother and family friend left to get some sleep. I went to find the nurse so he could administer one more round of pain meds before she and I settled in for the night.

My grandmother had apnea, so her breathing was very sporadic. She would only take a breath every 30 seconds and it would always be a sudden gasp followed by a groan. After first, it was legitimately the most disconcerting sound I’d ever heard. I hated it, it was the sound of nightmares.

But as the night wore on, I found myself constantly making sure she was still breathing. If she didn’t gasp regularly I’d start to panic. I sat there, holding her hand, clinging to every memory of her I could think of. I didn’t beg her to stay. I knew she had been hanging on for so long, fighting the inevitable. I knew it was her time and that there was nothing to be done. Her body was shutting down. All I could do was tell her I loved her and tell her that she was welcome to let go when she felt she was ready.

I knew my words were right, but it still feels, honestly painful, to tell your grandmother that it’s okay to die.

By morning I was sick with stress and grief. I had gotten to the point that I was freaked out and emotionally exhausted and just kept thinking about what would happen if she died while I was by myself there. I was angry that I hadn’t made more time for her and angry that I felt the need to keep it together and be “super strong” for my family. I had called my husband and my best friend a few times. The bestie answered around 2. The husband did not (he is a heavy sleeper).

Finally around 6-6:30 I texted my mom and basically begged her to come back and get me. I wanted a shower and I wanted sleep and I felt like I needed to step away from the situation, which made me feel so guilty, as the situation was my dying grandmother.

By the time my mother got there I was shaking, I had thrown up and I had stressed myself into a fever. I bawled my eyes out when she walked in the room. I’d spent my whole night terrified to leave my grandmother’s side, yet terrified to watch her die.

Death is an interesting adventure for everyone involved…

Saying Goodbye Part 1

The holidays are often a busy time for my family, as you may have noticed I had taken a bit of a break. It was my plan to continue my story within the new year. Unfortunately as the new year approached, tragedy struck my family.

I made a surprise trip to Florida on January 1st so that I could comfort my grandmother during her passing and be there for my grandfather.

To be honest, I’m really not sure what I was expecting. I received a phone call on Wednesday, December 30th from my grandfather informing me that Grandma was in Hospice. I immediately broke down, for as we all know, Hospice means little to no recovery.

He allowed me to speak to her and I tearily told her that I loved her and I missed her and that I would do everything in my power to get to her. She told me she loved me and was proud of me and then as she became emotional my grandfather took the phone.

Completely understandable.

You see, if you’ve been reading my story so far you probably have realized by now that my Grandparents have been a big part of my life. They have been the only stable home I have ever known. Their numbers have been the same since I was born, their address, their personalities. They are my rock. It’s like life is a game of Tag and every so often I need to go to their house so that I can touch Base and recenter myself.

After the phone call I immediately pulled myself together and began searching for plane tickets. Honestly, if my husband’s father had not sent us an incredibly generous Christmas gift we never would have afforded it. As it was, I literally spent every dime we had except 50cents to make it to Florida in time to see her.

I love to fly. I really do. Something about airports and the way the plane zooms across the country. The views are always incredible, and while it may not be the most comfortable, it’s an experience I am not ready to give up. Despite the bitter reason for my trip, I couldn’t help but get swept away in the atmosphere. I had a four-hour layover in Dallas, plenty of time to people watch.

Honestly the best part of my trip down was in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. A father and his little girl were waiting on their plane, which was delayed over an hour, and she must have been overly bored because her and I made eye contact and then next thing I know she is standing next to me, petting my blue and purple hair and telling me all about her life. She was literally so cute and was a nice little ray of sunshine on a day that I was surrounded by so many clouds.

I didn’t even make it into PBI until midnight that night. I was really nervous at first, my mother had said her and a family friend and my grandfather AND my brother were all coming to get me. I don’t do well with being really stressed and dealing with new situations and people I haven’t seen in awhile, so my anxiety was incredibly high. Plus, my focus wasn’t to comfort the living at the time, but to rush to my grandmother side so that I could spend as much time with her as possible.

Like usual I stressed for nothing, my mother and our family friend were missed, so as soon as I saw them it was like no time had passed. And instead of immediately bawling, like I really wanted to, I forced myself to put a smile on and to be a big girl and face the situation head on. Plus, I HATE crying in front of people.

My grandfather pulled up with the truck and my little brother in back. He was a mess, so I immediately climbed in and began the task of comforting those around me. For grandpa, I know my mere presence calmed him. Mom just needed a hug, I hadn’t seen our incredible friend in years and she was there more to support us, and my brother needed a peer’s shoulder to cry on. We were both losing the same person to us, so I guess it’s something we can share in common.

I am so thankful that Hospice is a 24 hour thing. I insisted that we immediately go to the hospital so that I could touch base with Grandma. But once we got there, I realized very quickly I couldn’t leave.

 

**Due to how honestly emotionally taxing this was, I will be splitting this post into a couple of different ones. I already know the impact this experience has had on my life and on me as a person, so I want to ensure that I do this justice and express my experiences in the best way possible**