February---the month known for love and romance---has taken on a new theme for me this year: Loss.
It started out with a friend from high school dying. Which was shocking and sobering. Then my friend David died. Then two more last week as another friend from high school passed away in a car accident, and then my friend Laurie lost a long battle with cancer. We went to her viewing on Monday. My parents sat with the kids in the car, and we went to dinner with them after the viewing. At this point I was feeling a little overwhelmed and very mortal.
|Grandma, Me, Claire, and my mom. Halloween 2006|
Late Monday night my mom's sister called to tell her that my 95-year-old grandma was having a lot of stomach pain and was asking to go to the hospital. They checked her in to the hospital and stayed the night while they assessed the problem. On Tuesday we found out that she had an intestinal blockage. Surgery was an option, but the chances of her surviving the surgery were slim. They weighed the options throughout the day planning that if surgery did happen it would be on Wednesday. My brother Jake was in town on business so I spent most of the afternoon and all of the evening with him. It was wonderful to be with him, as it just doesn't happen that often since we both have families and live more than 100 miles apart.
On Wednesday morning I was just stepping into the shower when my mom called and said to come quickly to the hospital. Grandma's kidneys were shutting down and her time seemed short. Taylor called in to work and got the day off. We threw everything in suitcases and plastic bags and drove rather quickly to the hospital (missing my shower the whole time!) When we got there there were probably 30 family members there. Grandma was happy and laughing and talking and really looking forward to being with Grandpa and her parents again. We sat with her and basically said goodbye. She reminded me what beautiful children I had, and we took a picture with her.
About an hour after that my brother and my in-laws arrived, and we took another picture with all of us and gGrandma. Right after the picture, Kyle (who was so sick of the hospital and starting to get sick) said, "Let's get in the car NOW!" Grandma laughed and said, "So cute! Such a joy..." Then Claire sang "Be Still My Soul" to her, and she fell asleep. Her sisters arrived right after that, but she really didn't talk to them, and I don't know that she was ever truly conscious after that.
Taylor took the kids and I spent the rest of the day with my mom and siblings (and other family) in the hospital. My sister and I painted her fingernails, and we spent some great time together. I went home for dinner and to finally shower around 7, then the kids and I went to my sister and sister-in-law's indoor soccer game (They won!) Claire and I went back to the hospital around 10 to say goodnight to my mom and let Claire say goodbye to Grandma again. As I left I whispered a small request for more babies in her ear. I hope she's good for that one :)
I slept at my parent's house (well, tried to sleep---poor Kyle came down with a raging fever and cough). I gave the kids a bath in the morning then took them up to Salt Lake to stay with Taylor's mom. I felt bad leaving Kyle there sick, but I also really felt like my mom needed me, and I really wanted to be with Grandma.
When I got to the hospital they were taking her oxygen and blood pressure. At this point she was receiving oxygen, but they explained to us that the oxygen was no longer helping as her lungs would only take in a certain amount of oxygen no matter what air she was breathing (room air or oxygen saturated air). So they removed the oxygen and took out the tube which had been suctioning her stomach after the blockage. At this point they also realized that her kidneys had completely stopped working as well as her stomach and intestines.
She was still breathing and still receiving a lot of pain medication because of the pain caused by her bowels dying. She didn't wake up or call out all that morning. She wasn't on any monitors throughout the time we were there, and the only sign of life to us was her constant, sometimes labored breathing.
My brother Dan and I were there with my mom and her two sisters who were in and out of the room. Dan and I had a long time alone to just sit holding her hands and chat with her. Dan had the extremely thoughtful idea to bring one of Grandpa's favorite hats, and we placed it in her hand. We talked with her about grandpa, and about her parents and siblings who were waiting for her on the other side. She gripped my hand occasionally. I have to believe that she could hear me. She gripped especially when we gave her grandpa's hat, when I talked of her parents and grandparents, and when I talked about how she was going to meet her sister Idelia (who died at birth) for the first time. We talked of how free she would feel, how unconfined by her aged body she would be, how we would be okay but that we would never be the same. I put in a few more requests (okay, a lot more requests) for more beautiful babies for me and my siblings. She loved babies.
My sister-in-law Britten and my dad brought lunch for my mom in the early afternoon. Britten told me I was welcome to come to her house a few blocks away and have some lasagna (I have to say here that she makes an INCREDIBLE vegetarian lasagna, unresistable lasagna.) That was at 2:00. I said no thanks, that I wanted to stay. Then a nurse came in and took her vitals which hadn't significantly changed, and that lasagna was calling to me as I hadn't had a thing to eat all day. So I left with her at about 2:10. I got to her house, played a bit with my darling neice then warmed up and thoroughly enjoyed some lasanga. As I was finishing up my dad called to tell her that Grandma had passed. I hadn't turned my phone off of silent. My sister had tried to call and text, but I missed it. She passed at 2:20.
I got back at 2:40. I was devastated that I hadn't been there. I wanted to be there of course for Grandma, but I wanted to be there for my mom. However by that time my dad and little brother and sister were there, so she wasn't alone. Her sisters and brother were also there too, so it was fine,
Soon after she passed they asked if she had wanted to be a donor, that they could use her eyes to study macular degeneration at the Moran Eye Center. My mom gave a resounding yes. (You'll remember my platform was organ and tissue donation awareness. We spent hours talking with Grandma about donation during the last ten+ years. She even sat at donation awareness booths with me.) A few family members were unsure about what she would have wanted. It really stressed to me that it is important to have that conversation with your family, not just once but often. It is certainly something that we've talked about a lot, but when the pressure was on those conversations are not always easily recalled. This also made me see (again) the great benefit in the online donor registry which can show families that their loved one purposefully went online and purposefully signed up to be a donor (Have you? Click the Donate Life button on the sidebar to check.) In the end everyone agreed that it was the right thing to do (phew!) and her beautiful eyes will be studied and with lucky they will help find the cure for macular degeneration (they said they think they are 3-4 years away from actually curing it!).
My cousin Lee offered a wonderful family prayer, and we stayed with family and with grandma until about 5:00. We were surprised that she stayed relatively warm the whole time. It was comforting to give her a last hug and still feel warmth.
Taylor's parents were headed south so I got the kids from them in a parking lot. Kyle was burning with fever, although he had had a full dose of Tylenol about 1.5 hours early. I gave him Ibuprofen and headed home. I dropped Claire off with Taylor and went straight to InstaCare. Though his temperature was still high he had no ear, throat, or chest infection, so we picked up an amazing prescription (we've loved it before) for cough and congestion that should have him at least feeling better soon. For now he's still fevering terribly.
It's been a long couple days. It's been a long month. The funeral is set for this coming Thursday which seems like so far away. I will miss my grandma terribly. I have a lot to say about her, but that's for another post. But I read this today, and I loved it:
Even as we mourn, I know she rejoiced to be free and to have lived such an amazing, joyful life.