Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A Year Later



It's been a year since I told my Grandma goodbye.  We're having a family gathering at a restaurant tonight in her honor.

Dementia is a horrible disease that no one can ever really comprehend unless they've gone through it with someone they love.  I remember making jokes as a kid, as we all did (and do if we haven't gone through it) when someone does something forgetful..." what's wrong, you got Alzheimer's?"  Then you go through it, and those jokes are no longer funny because forgetting why you walked into a room is normal, forgetting how to speak or the people in your life, is not. 

When you're watching some random show like Bull and the 'genius' lawyer they brought in talks about getting lunch at a pizza place that'll knock your socks off, you think nothing of it.   Then 20 minutes later, when he says the same thing in the exact same way, and your gut sinks and all of the pain comes flooding back because you know where it's going.  I applaud shows for bringing attention to it, but it makes it no less hard for those of us who have had someone stolen from us.  There will always be a mild PTSD to it, and that is not a term I throw around willy nilly.  You will, without a doubt, have triggers for the rest of your life from things you saw and things that were taken from you from someone you never thought would get it.  Dementia robs people of so much including a normal death.  Even death from a terminal disease, the person may be coherent and know you until the last few days until their body transitions.  With dementia, the person you know can die in front of you when they no longer know you.  It is the weirdest and most cruel thing to mourn someone who is still alive.  They can become agitated, be mean and say things they would never have said in their normal state of mind.  We thankfully didn't have the worst of that as I've read from others but enough to make marks internally. Dementia has a way of making time seem infinite which is why The 36 Hour Day is such a popular book to help guide people through their dementia journey.  It also has a way of distorting the grief process.  Everyone knows the first year is the hardest getting through your "firsts" when someone passes and at least for me, dementia took that away too.  It didn't feel like the first Easter without her a few days after she died because the essence of who she was hadn't been there for 2-3 years.  None of the holidays felt like the "first" one without her, it was just first one without her body lying in a hospital bed in the middle of the living room.  (Which as I mentioned in previous posts, she would've absolutely been against.)

Because of that, it's hard for me to believe it's been a year in some ways because I felt like she's been here more since she was freed of the disease than I've had her the previous 4 years.  Some days she was so very present in signs she showed us repeatedly that the biggest skeptic on Earth couldn't deny it.   Her uncommon name would pop up multiple times in a day.  I would have an urge to turn to a station I never listen to and one of the several songs that had her name in it would be playing.  The smell of her perfume in the house out of nowhere.  My aunt had similar things happen to her and would email me to tell me because she knew I was the only one who wouldn't look at her sideways.  She said I'm so much like Grandma in that respect, that people can talk to me without judgment and I'm thankful for that.  Then there were things that people could dismiss like the time we pulled into the cemetery to visit like we always did.  I said "ding dong" to let her know we were coming and I felt her hands on the side of my face and could feel her smiling.  That never happened before and I burst into tears, and it took my breath away.   It hasn't happened since but I remember that feeling so strongly.  The past few months the signs have gotten less which kind of stinks but I would say they're on a bi-weekly basis now.  When a week had passed since the Mr's heart news, I sobbed in bed telling her I needed her.  I wished for a visit from her that night or some sign that she was watching over him.  I had my hands folded over my heart as I silently sobbed and I swear the hand on top felt like her hand on mine.  Like the feeling of me touching my own hand went away and I could feel someone's hand on mine, and I can only assume it was her.  The second I was aware of it and tried to process it, it was gone.  Maybe it was nothing, maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me, maybe it was her.   I choose to believe the latter based on how much she has shown me since she passed.

I am grateful that the last images I had of her alive are beginning to fade.  They used to flash in my head, and I would desperately try to get them out because I knew the smell would immediately be next.  My aunt talked to me about that when she was going through another health crisis with someone close to her.  She said, "do you remember the smell with Grandma at the end?  That's what I smelled with them, and I knew death was near."  I confirmed I remembered and at that second, I could actually smell it.  Those of you who were with someone transitioning in hospice might know what I'm talking about too and you can't even really describe it other than it smells like death.  (It's caused by organs shutting down.)  I am thankful that I can't recall the smell as quickly as I did then.  One of those things that time thankfully helps blur but will likely never really go away.

We visit her about every 2-3 weeks at "the new condo."  I make sure to keep her faux flowers fresh with each season and take time and care in choosing them.  I choose ones in her favorite colors and types and not cheapy looking ones.  I put only what I know she would've put in her own home.  We replaced the flag with her picture on it since a windstorm supposedly took it at the end of February.  (We both find that hard to believe.  It was somewhat faded but didn't look tattered, but no one is copping to it.)  I already had another one waiting that I was going to replace it with today so we replaced it.  I got some garden flag clips I found online to stop it from getting so whipped around in the wind.  I also waterproofed it to hopefully keep it looking better, longer.  It brings comfort to her husband to see it, and he always feels he has to call and thank me for the flowers when he sees them.  Those conversations are uncomfortable for many reasons, and I still ask Grandma for grace in my feelings toward it all.

Last weekend I grabbed my "nice occasion" purse, and it was obvious the last time I used it was her funeral.  It had the prayer I wrote for all of us pallbearers, gum, tissues, and small sewing kit. Gas X and aspirin because no one wants to fart during a eulogy with pain from a cry headache and make it memorable for the wrong reasons.  (Which most of it was anyway but we won't go there unless you want to go here.)  It brought it back, but I tried not to think about it because I just wasn't up for reliving it at that time.  I know she wouldn't want me to think of that day so I threw away the things that were related to the funeral home.  I honestly think this year will be the real year of transition as far as family is concerned and how holidays will be celebrated going forward.  There was no Easter for them last year.  Thanksgiving was bad because another family member was on the edge of death and I mean by weeks.  It's by the grace of God; they are still here and now healthy again.  Then we got the hell outta Dodge for Christmas as it was desperately needed.  So this year will be the first year that there isn't someone on death's door or dealing with the grief of Grandma's passing.  It'll be interesting.

I am still forever grateful to have had such a strong relationship with Grandma that I can feel her around me.  I feel like there's another angel watching over us and that support she gave me in life is still just as strong.  I'm not going to lie though, I miss those hugs.  I try to be things I miss about her.  Listening without judgment, support even if I don't agree, not gossip or air my dirty laundry, make holidays special by doing small but appreciated touches even if only for us,   It's how I help her live on and hold her close to my heart.

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6 comments:

  1. I think you are honoring her in the most beautiful way every day. The struggles were real during all those years she suffered, but so was the love that helped both you and her endure. That love continues and no disease can take it away. That kind of love goes beyond this life and is yours for eternity. The road of grief has no timeline and different memories will come up at odd times and it can take your breath away. But the love remains no matter what. Sending you many hugs as you go through today and the gathering later on. I'm thinking and praying for you. xoxo

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    1. Thank you so much. No, it doesn't and everyone needs to take that time to grieve in the way they need to whether through tears, laughter, or choosing to grieve privately. Thanks for all of your support over the years, it means so much.

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  2. You honor her every day in some way and I know she appreciates that. Her spirit endures and is with us always. Remembering every little thing about her is how we honor her and today we honor the day she was set free.

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    1. I try to and I know she has to feel it. It is hard to be sad today for me because as you said, she was set free. She sure was chatty that first month afterward, eh? ROFL! It was like "I've got years to make up for!"

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  3. Peace and comfort to you. Thank you for sharing your pain, as it comforts others more than you realize. I lost my sister unexpectedly in 2011, and I still have those little moments every once in a while where I think I feel her presence.

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    1. Thanks so much Rachel. I'm so sorry for your loss and I have zero doubt in those moments you feel her, she's there.

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