A year ago today I was sitting with two hospice nurses in my Grandma’s bedroom. She was sitting on the edge of the hospital bed that had been delivered earlier (which the delivery man so kindly switched about with me AFTER the frame was put together so it faced the “right” direction). My mom was in Kansas. My uncle was on his way from Washington State.
One year ago today the nurses were asking her questions. She could answer some. I helped with others. She could scarcely make a mark on a piece of paper any more unless we gave her a marker instead of a pen; she was so frustrated.
One year ago today I wanted to be able to tell them there was no time. While the nurses were wonderful – knowledgeable, kind, honest, comforting – I sat wishing there had been time to say, “THERE IS NO TIME. She will not be alive by the time the musical thanatologist can be here. She may not make it to the day that she could have a bed bath. She won’t be able to speak – literally speak – to the counsellor. Ah well.
One year ago today is somewhat a blur, though some moments have stayed stayed with me with such clarity that I feel like it was yesterday. I remember rushing through the drive-through at Wendy’s because it’s so close to the condo and I’d only had coffee that day. I remember finding bedding for the hospital bed and thinking that I was making the bed in which she would die. I remember that the weather started out clear but SO cold. I helped the medical supply delivery man carry things up the stairs. He kept saying I needn’t help, but I said I didn’t mind. I needed to do something.
One year ago last night I had stayed at the hospital after Grandma was admitted after that endless day in the ER on January 2, 2009. That was after she’d been on the floor for possibly hours. I was supposed to take her to an appointment and she didn’t answer the phone to tell me when. I think I knew on some level that she was NOT just getting ready. I don’t think I didn’t wanted to call the paramedics again. I think I knew it was the end. I should have… I should have done many things. But I must lay that to rest. I know I must.
One year ago yesterday: All day in the ER. Scans, blood tests, more scans (some I kept saying, “she’s just had those”), more tests… Calls to her oncologist. The first time in my life I’d EVER seen my Grandmother confused (she was completely with it even when in renal failure months before that). And late that night, the doctor and intern asked me to come out and speak to them. Then they thought better of it. They came into the room and I stood across my Grandma’s bed from them while they explained that there was unusual and horrifically rapid metastasis from the lymph nodes (about which we knew) to her lungs and to her brain. I remembering covering my mouth with my hand; I don’t know why. What could I say?
One year ago last night the doctor and the intern said that her oncologist said that she could have part of the transfusion that had originally been planned for the day if she wanted it. It was established that it might make her feel a little better (and somehow they let me know that it was not cruelly life-sustaining). She said she’d take it. Then we waited, again, for another doctor to admit her. I had to step into the hall and called to tell my Mom that she had to come home right away to see her Mother before she wouldn’t know she was there.
One year ago last night SO many calls then and the next day in the halls of the hospital. One so that my meds could be brought so that I could stay with her that night. Many others to family, to her church, to ask my older sister which hospice she’d been researching. I was on the phone, huddled against the wall, weeping – I don’t know who I was talking to – and I remember one of the social workers (was it a nurse?) coming by, putting their hand on my shoulder for a moment, and walking on.
One year ago today this morning, the oncologist, wearing his University of Utah Hoodie, stood in the hall with me while they were x-raying an injury of her arm. The process was hurting her. And he just sensed what he could say to me. He said, slightly exasperated, “What are they going to do if it IS broken?” He told me that he was really surprised about the metastasis. He’d seen her on New Year’s Eve; she’d walked right into the office. He thought there MIGHT be spots on her lungs. He studied the films (which were a few weeks old) at length. But he also knew she had had pneumonia.
One year ago this morning he said, “She has a few days to a week.” “Probably closer to a few days, as she’s not eating [hadn’t eaten in the ER and had only had a popsicle in that day].” Then he walked into her room, told her she looked horrible (which made her smile and almost laugh). He said, “Let’s get you out of this horrible place. We could radiate the brain tumor, but I don’t think it would give you much. I think you’re very, very tired and want to go home.” She nodded.
One year ago today, because of some blessed miracle, bureaucracy took a back seat. The necessary equipment was arranged for delivery. It was acknowledged that I could stay the nights with her, so the hospice team was contacted and scheduled to arrive. I barely had time to get back to her condo and figure out where to put the equipment before she was transported home.
One year ago today my Beloved Grandmother came home to die. And one year ago today I promised her she would not be alone.