Thursday, March 29, 2018

Beautiful You

If you didn't read yesterday's post, I'd start there and swing on back over.

The Mr was in bed, and I had to stop the flashes of that image of Grandma in my head.  I started scouring our hard drive for pictures of her.  There is one on my desktop that I look at every day.  It's a selfie I took of us 8 years ago when I took her into the city for lunch and ice cream.  She was a very happy girl, and it is one of my favorite memories.  I remember when the scooper dude was like "would you like half scoops or whole ones?" and she said, "whole ones please!"  God, it was the cutest thing ever.

Before I got too heavy into looking for pictures, something nudged me to look up her favorite song, Beautiful You by the Oak Ridge Boys.   I started to cry as I listened to the first few verses:

Please don't cry, oh my
You're so blue
But I'm here to help you
Beautiful you

You need someone to give you
A love that's true
Well, I'm here to help you
Beautiful you

I glanced at the clock:  11:49pm.  I figured I would go to the folders I knew for sure had pictures of her and get it started and finish up the next day.  I began copying photos into a folder, and I was happy I was one of those annoying people who took pictures when she had a camera because we've been preparing for this for 7 years.  I still didn't have as many as I'd like.  You never do when you're faced with an end of life situation.  As I looked at the Christmas pictures, she held up this crocodile mask to her face, I busted out laughing because it was completely out of character for her.   Another picture from Easter 2010 where she was wearing this sunflower headband one of the kids got and again, totally out of character because she never wanted to mess up her freshly done do.  There were pictures of the two of us together and one in particular of my second cousin who is about 4 years old.  She was crying and ran straight to Grandma's arms to be comforted.  It was heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once.

Once I finally got a decent amount of digital pictures moved over, I decided I would start writing yesterday's post because I wanted to document the feelings when they were the strongest.  When I got to the part about the voicemail from mom, I clicked over to my email so I could copy exactly what she said.  It had a (2) by the message meaning there had been another call from her number almost an hour ago.  My heart began to race as I read it but because it's a crappy translator, it wasn't clear what she was saying.  So I hopped onto the voicemail system, and there were 10 unheard messages.  (We usually just let them erase after 30 days since we get the emails.)  I feverishly listened to the first line of each message, hit 3 to delete, and I swear the woman took forever to get through each one.

Message erased.

Next message from eight-seven-seven...six-three-nine...eight-zero-zero-three.  (Not the real number)


Four...fifty three...PM...on...Thursday...March....eighth.

Nine times I had to do that as my heart beat harder and harder out of my chest with each delete to hear what I already knew.  My hands began to shake as I heard 11:51pm and my mom says my aunt was "coming to pick her back up...pause....(tears)...grandma passed away (in a cracking voice which is why it couldn't be translated)...I'm so glad you got to see her before she died.  I don't know. maybe that's what she was waiting for and needed before she could go."  My hand shook banging the receiver into my ear as tears streamed down my face and I hung up the phone.

At the exact moment my Grandma died, I was listening to her favorite song which I hadn't thought of in years and was compelled to look up at that exact I was looking at pictures of her.  As this thought ran through my head, I knew that even though the Mr was asleep, I needed to tell him.  I thought of how I was going to do it, and I thought the best way would be to quietly open the door, rub his arm until he stirred and whisper to him that she passed.  We'd hug, and I'd tell him to go back to sleep, and we'd talk in the morning.  The thought of standing was more than I was able to process and I was paralyzed.  All I could do was let out this continuous guttural cry/scream as years of helplessness, anger, frustration, sadness, love, and grief poured from the pit of me.  My eyes felt like they were going to explode because as much as you prepare for the moment and will it to come so that the person you love can have peace, it is truly the end.  The end of 78 years of love, happiness, trials, challenges, triumphs, holidays, traditions, support and everything in between.  As her life as I knew it flashed before my eyes, I continued to wail with a ferocity I have only seen on nature shows where a mother cries out over the body of its dead child.  I heard the Mr stir, and he came down.  He asked if I'd heard news and I played the voicemail for him as I cried and he hugged me.  He told me how sorry he was and that she was at peace now.  He asked if we should go back over and I said I couldn't take seeing that and he agreed.  We talked for an hour, and I told him about what I was doing when she passed and showed him the pictures of her I'd gathered so far for potential memory boards.

He massaged my shoulders since my headache was fierce and I kept telling him to go to bed.  He emailed his mom (they would get together from time to time years ago) and went back to bed.  I emailed three of my best friends and began crying again when I had to keep correcting my sentences to the past tense. The wind is howling outside as it has been since I heard the news.  I looked up and said, "giving them hell up there already, are we?"

That brings me to now.   It's 4:57am, and she's been gone just over five hours.  I have a hard time wanting to go to sleep because I know when I wake up, it will be the first new day without her in this world.  Today begins the next chapter for our family that I have always dreaded...the "after" and all that entails.  I dread the process of what typically happens when the glue of the family dies especially with her generation.  They are the last generation with expectations of how things should be because it's the right thing to do and not the easy thing.  I know we have showings and a funeral to get through.  I have a eulogy to read with memories and a plea for people to remember how she lived and not how she died.  I will need more strength to get through that than I believe I have but I will just tell myself to get through it for her and then I can break down when I sit down like I did for my grandpa.

I cannot begin to thank you all for your messages, emails and comments of support and thanks over the years as I have told her story from my perspective.  I hope that I have given you all some understanding of what a family touched by dementia goes through and how it can easily fracture your familial foundation.   Please excuse any absences I may have due to the funeral or just need a mental break in the coming week.   If you or someone you know is newly diagnosed, please refer to this post as a good starting point.

Goodbye, beautiful you.  Come visit me in my dreams, we have a lot to catch up on.

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  1. From day one, when I came onto the scene as your boyfriend at the time, she has treated me like her own grandson. She has always respected me in a way that few in this world have and has regarded the things that I tell her as absolute facts even if I might have doubted myself at times. You just can't get that kind of unconditional love from a lot of people in your life and I am so blessed to have known her because of that. On the flipside, I have never had any reason to ever be mad at her or think anything less of her at any point in the time that I've known her and I honestly cannot say that about too many people either. I love my own grandparents of course, who have all passed on before, but she is as much if not more "My Grandma" as they have ever been to me.

    I am glad I can write this here because it's hard to express this sentiment elsewhere. When I informed co-workers that my wife's grandma died, they say the usual "oh please pass on my condolences" which I understand. But what they do not know is that as rare as it might be, I truly adopted her as my own grandma too. She was the best and I miss her so much. I celebrate the very special person she was but I do have one privilege - so much of her lives on in you. I see her in you all the time and that is truly a blessing.

    I love you Grandma. I am glad you have peace now.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. Even when we think we are prepared for the inevitable, we never can be.

  3. Thank you for sharing such deeply personal emotions of what that 24 hours was like for you, from going to see her to say goodbye, to the following day when it's that surreal state of realizing your world feels like it's crashed around you, yet life keeps going on around you in this odd I'm-in-a-bubble sort of way. I will pray for God to give you the strength you need to get through the services, the eulogy, and dealing with raw emotions of family members. You'll make Grandma proud just by being authentic you. Love you. xoxoxo

  4. Oh I'm so sorry for your loss. This kind of pain is just unbearable at times, but eventually you will have only the goodness and love and memories to hold in your heart forever. Grandma's are so special and I'm glad you had one of the good ones. And I agree with the Mr, it seems your Grandma does live on in you and you share that through her/your recipes. Thank you for sharing it all with us. XO

  5. I'm so sorry for your loss. From following your blog I can tell she was a magnificent lady. May we all be as loved as she is.


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