Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Saying Goodbye

As I mentioned a little while ago, it looked like this holiday season was going to be our last with Grandma.  Since we're giving ourselves some peace for Christmas, I knew Thanksgiving was going to be the last time I saw her this holiday season.  I knew it could likely be the last time I saw her for good.

As I went into the day, baking my pies and getting things ready.  I thought back to how many times she lovingly prepared meals for her family on big holidays like this.  I am my grandma's granddaughter and I stress out as much as she did.  She was known to break out the tude while trying to get it all done in time.  As a kid, you don't understand it much but as an adult you totally empathize and appreciate what all those that came before you did to make the holiday special.

This was the first time we were seeing the set up with the bed in the living room.  It wasn't quite as intrusive as I'd pictured.  Some of the furniture was rearranged and she was in the bed and awake for once.  (Every holiday the past 2 years that I've seen her, she's been comatose from drugs)  I went over and kissed her head and said hello and rubbed her arm.  She didn't really look at me but I couldn't help but notice the extreme tremors she was having.  Her hands shook pretty violently the whole time and sometimes her legs would shake.  It was like watching a Parkinson's patient and I immediately wondered if it was Lewy Body like Robin Williams had.  I sure as heck wasn't going to bring it up.  I know my place on that front now.  Say nothing because no one wants to hear it.  I was a little alarmed to hear that she'd been basically taken off of all meds except one pill and occasionally an anxiety med.  I gave it to God.

When I went back a few minutes later, sat beside her and said hi again.  She looked my way and tried to show me this stuffed animal her sister made for her.  I touched it and told her how pretty it was and how nice it was that she made that for her.  As I sat beside her, very low under her breath I could hear her say "mmm hmm."  This is something she has said her whole life and I say it too.  It's more the way it's said, kind of like the period on the end of a sentence.  (Not like Sling Blade or something, more like the mom in Edward Scissorhands.)  Like when she was teaching me how to make noodles, she would say "just use the drippings for the gravy...mmm hmm."  To hear her saying it even low enough for only me to hear was very comforting.  There were times she would lean forward or would shake very violently like she wanted to move and I would rub her back or her arm and she would calm down and lean back in her chair.  A few times I was rubbing her back, she would scratch her ear or in that direction and I would stop in case she was trying to tell me to stop but couldn't.

Mom took a few pics of us and when she was holding up her animal a little, my mom laughed and said it's like she wants her animals picture taken and she slowly lifted it in front of her face, like "take the picture."  It was so cute.  Then it was picture time.  Since her diagnosis, none of us have taken pictures at the holidays anymore.  No one wants to remember what she was like at that time of decline.  But this year, everyone brought their camera and we all knew why.  Each family posed with her in her wheelchair and all of the girls both daughters and granddaughters posed with her.  We all knew it could be the last pictures we took with her.  It was bittersweet and honestly, I won't likely look at them often because the real story is being told in glaring detail.  All of the women putting on brave smiles as Grandma looks elsewhere, unaware of what we are doing and why the flashes keep going off.

As we were all leaving, we each took turns saying goodbye.  One of my aunts broke down when she walked away from her bed and I held her while she cried.  We said we loved each other as she told me how it killed her to see her that way and she doesn't want her to see her cry.  I said goodbye to her twice.  The second time I went over, she looked up at me and I said "me again!  I just wanted to say I love you and Merry Christmas."  She looked over at the tree and I said "see your pretty tree!  It was decorated with love just for you so you can enjoy it this year.  I love you grandma, you will never know how much I love you" and kissed her goodbye.

I thought about it being the last time I may see her and because I have mourned her loss for years (2 1/2 years since she last knew who I was), I am relatively drained emotionally due to the circumstances involving not just her disease but the other issues that have come with it.  I have come to terms with the fact that the way they chose to care for her is not how I would have done it but it has allowed the Mr and I some good talks when it comes to our own futures should we ever be faced with that.  I love my grandma with all of my heart but I want her to have peace.  Each moment is a struggle for her now with that violent shaking and when God decides to take her, I am spiritually at peace with that.  As much as I will miss the arms that held me, the smile she so rarely showed (she never liked showing her teeth for some reason- I thought they were fine!) and the voice that comforted me, there will be some relief in knowing that every minute of her life is not faced with not just what we can see outside but the things she can't tell us that are going on inside.  I saved her some of the Christmas cookies I made in a tin along with the snowball cookies she loved, I made them straight from her recipe.  I brought the platter because I wanted to make sure that she got some Christmas cookies this year even if she didn't make it to Christmas.  If it's one small way to bring her some pleasure, I'm glad I did it.

When I look at the pictures from that night, my heart breaks.  It very much reminds me of the final picture we have of our dog the day we had to put her to sleep.  She looked like a shell of herself and in pain with a blanket covering her.  Grandma looked the same...frail, sad and a shell of her former shelf.  They are pictures I'm glad to have but will not likely look at them again.  I have several very good pictures of us together of the woman she wanted me to remember and out of love and respect, that is how I will remember her forever.

I pray our family can find a way to recover because it's not just the person that suffers, it's the whole family.  I am scared of what's to come when she is gone because I see the impending self destruction of our family in many ways.  I hope I'm wrong but signs are pointing to a very trying battle that will have only begun once she's gone.

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  1. This disease has side effects that include everyone in the family and this seems to be little understood by a lot of people until it hits them too. I have seen lesser things destroy parts of my own family but in this case, this took out the one person who was the glue of the family and it is hard to say where things go from here. Just know I am here for you through it all!

  2. I hope that your family can recover from this. I know it's so hard on all of you seeing her like this and everyone copes with that in different ways.

  3. I am so glad that you were able to have that quality time with her on Thanksgiving and got to say your goodbyes and do those special little touches just for her. I can tell you from personal experience not having the chance to say goodbye is haunting and there's little peace. But you have that peace now and you handled it all so beautifully. Regardless of the tension in the house that day, you kept your grandma from that and made those precious moments about her and you. I could not be more proud of you because I know how your heart felt like it was being ripped out of your chest. But you did exactly what your grandmother would have done. You are indeed your grandma's granddaughter. xoxo

  4. I'm so very sorry. It's heartbreaking for us to watch our loved ones slip away. I used to hope it was only hard on me because they didn't know, but sometimes we just don't know. I know you'll always love and cherish who she always was to you, It's a blessing you could say goodbye, but oh the parting will still hurt.


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