5/52 – Story
Last winter I got a call that I need to immediately rush home. My Gran was in the hospital and I had less than 12 hours to get there and say goodbye. I wavered and was torn. I was needed at my home with my kids, I couldn’t fathom being the only one to hop on a plane, and it was highly unlikely that I would make it in time.
I decided not to go that night and said what would likely be my final words to her over the phone.
In the morning I woke up and so did she. My cousin’s brought in their iPads and we talked a little more, this time with video. We said more hellos and goodbyes. We said the things we needed to say.
The doctors still said her death was imminent, but not so immediate, and they planned to move her to palliative care.
My Gran was 91 years old then. She’d lived way long than she’d expected. Her hospital room was a revolving door of people coming in and out to say goodbye, which suited her well because fear coursed through her and she didn’t want to ever be left alone. She wanted someone at her bedside 24 hours a day.
I flew home three days after the initial call. I wanted to have another goodbye – in person this time. I spent 24 hours with her in her hospital room.
I wore a brave and kind face but I was terrified. My Gran had aged, was losing her eyesight, and wasn’t living life entirely as she would like. Drawing and painting had become her companion hobby of recent years and her body was forcing her to stop doing the things she loved. She wasn’t sold on living for forever this way, and I supported that. My Gran was more than a grandmother, she was a constant in raising me, and her death was going to punch a hole through my heart.
But I wasn’t so much as scared of her dying, than being the only one in the room with her as she died. I didn’t know if I was emotionally strong enough to be the one to hold her hand as she transitioned from life to death.
I’ve never seen anyone die before. Just like before the Doodle, I had never been in the room when someone gave birth. I knew my Gran’s death couldn’t be about me and my conflicting emotions, and that I needed to be fully present for her. I just didn’t have a road map to do that. I was overwhelmed by my fear. I didn’t have the time I needed to adequately prepare and reflect for this visit. But it wasn’t about me. It was about her. And that needed to remain my focus.
When I walked into the hospital room, she had no idea I was coming. She popped up a few inches off her pillow in surprise and her face lit up with delight. That’s what being thrilled looks like for someone who is dying.
While I stayed with my Gran for 24 hours and continuously fed her thickened water off a plastic spoon, I was never alone with her in the room. Someone else was always dropping in to share words and stories of lifetimes shared with her. When I realized that she wasn’t going to die while I was there, and if she did, I wouldn’t be the only one there, my fear began to fizzle out.
My Gran didn’t die that day. She didn’t die that week or even the next week. Somewhere, she regained an even greater will to live and was moved from palliative care to rehabilitation.
Today she is alive and is still seriously feisty at 92 years of age. She has still has many stories to create and tell. I only get to see her a few times a year, and when I do, I want to ensure to always capture images like these.