I apologize for my long absence. To say I’ve had a lot going on in my life would be an understatement. I’m still dealing with health issues and stuff at work, but most importantly, I lost my grandmother last month. As you know, my grandparents raised me, so Grandma was really my mom.
She would have been 97 next month. She died the morning of June 29th, and her memorial service was July 7th. She outlived (by years) every one of her nine siblings, as well as her husband and one of her children. (The rate my health has been this year, I was sure she’d outlive me as well.) She was sweet, smiley, silly, stubborn, smart, sometimes slow, secretive, and most of all, strong. That was the theme of her eulogy that I gave. (I think the alliteration got a few extra chuckles .) I wanted a service that celebrated her life rather than focused on mourning her passing, and I think we achieved that. I think she would have been happy with everything.
She pulled her feeding tube out again. I got the call while I was in the midst of preparing for a huge golf tournament for work that I’d been organizing since January. It was the night before the tournament, and the nursing home called and asked if they should send her to the hospital to have it put back in.
She hadn’t had any quality of life for quite a while. The Alzheimer’s was so severe, she hadn’t spoken in over a year. The last few times I went to see her, I could tell she thought she should know me, but she just couldn’t connect the dots. Her blue eyes which smiled her whole life didn’t sparkle anymore, and you could tell the life was gone from her spirit.
It never occurred to me in past times that she’d pulled out the tube that perhaps she was doing it on purpose – as if she was telling me she was ready to leave this life. But it came to me this time, and I knew it was time to let her go.
Some people assumed because in the past when they asked how I would handle her passing, I said it was like she was already gone, that this meant I wouldn’t grieve or mourn her death. There couldn’t be anything farther from the truth.
Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It rips away the memories of a lifetime and leaves but a shell of a person. It eventually takes away the ability to eat, to swallow, and even to breathe. Anyone who’s experienced this with a loved one knows you have to put emotional distance between yourself and the person with this diagnosis because you’re both victims. The loved ones that are left are as affected as the person with the diagnosis. How must it feel to love someone so deeply for your entire life and know they don’t even recognize you?
I asked the nursing home to keep her on morphine and move her to hospice so she didn’t have to die in that nasty place. But the only hospice that took her insurance was over an hour away, so she stayed there. I knew it would take about a week and it would be an agonizing procedure – – You’re literally starving and dehydrating the person to death. The organs dry up and stick together until everything slows down and then stops.
I couldn’t get out to see her until the day after the tournament, so 36 hours after the call, and I saw her several times a day, every day after that. She had eye movement for everyone else that went to see her – my kids, my birth mom, my uncle – but never for me. I felt she was actually giving me the stink eye a few times. It’s like she knew I was the deciding factor that allowed them to let her go. She was afraid of death her whole life, and she knew I knew it. And I sent her there to see Old Man Death, scared and alone. I’ll have to live with that the rest of my life. Such is the price of being “the strong one.”
Anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself. I hope you’re all doing well, and I especially thank those of you who sent me such sweet messages. I hope to be back more often that I’ve been this year thus far.
Keep smiling, and stay healthy! (Yes, all photos are of Grandma and me.)