Monday, January 17, 2011

Saying Goodbye

Grandma Joan and I - Christmas 2008

My Grandma Joan is dying. The hospice nurses say that she could go at any moment - they thought she was going to go last night. To see a woman who was once so active, who has travelled the world twice over and hiked Macchu Picchu in her 60s to be bedridden from a combination of emphysema and brittle bones, fractured vertebrae and bad circulation is so difficult. To watch my grandfather, who has been by her side for nearly 61 years, and has been her primary caretaker during this year of pain, say goodbye to his wife, to know that she could take her last breath any moment, to hear him whisper to her "Take the angels hands and go, my love. I'll come along after.", to see him cry when he knows she can't see him - is heartbreaking.

To realize that this is not LIFE for her, and that what comes next is so much better. To be sad, but almost hopeful that she'll go and find relief from her chronic pain. This feels morbid - but it's about her, and not about the rest of us.

The whole family has been gathered around, singing to grandma, praying for her, waiting for her brief moments of lucidity to say our goodbyes. And while it's sad, it's not devastating, because every time I come back to the fact that life in her shell of a body is no life at all right now, especially not for a woman as active as she was.

But then, I look at my Grandfather, still spry and active despite his 87 years and I wonder what he's going to do when she's gone. Will he ramble around in his big house all alone? Will he stay active? Still swimming daily and sunbathing his brown skin? Still driving to the grocery store and preparing meals, cleaning the house, and gardening? Or will he give up and ramble? I don't know - he's always been so vibrant, but Grandma's deterioration has taken its toll on him, too.

What I do know is that Grandma wants us to celebrate the life she lived. To have a big party at the house in her honor, and to live fully.

I can do that - for her, and for me.

And I can only pray that Jason and I will have 60 amazing years together full of adventures and family. That we will still have good stories to share at the end of it. That we will still be so tenderly in love.

I love you Grandma. Thank you for everything.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry to read this post Erin. :( We went through the exact same thing a little over a year ago with my grandma. Your grandfather will be ok! If he's active now, chances are he will stay active. My grandfather spends his time at church, work, his weekly card games and going on his daily walks and 10 mile bike rides - and he's in his 80's as well!
    I think it's so sweet that you have the chance to witness their love for each other during these last moments and that you have gotten the chance to be by her side, talk with her and sing to her ... you'll remember these moments for a long time ...