One year ago I knew my Beloved Grandma would die today. I recognized the signs. By evening, when everyone else had left for the day, I was dosing her with the appropriate medications hourly. I intended to do it all night if needed. It was not necessary.
I’m still second-guessing myself; I find so many things that I could have done better – I could have made my Grandma more comfortable AND comforted. I know I must let it go, but the sound of a voice crying out in pain and confusion stays with you.
I sang to Grandma. I sang with more intensity than I think I’ve ever mustered; I sang with every fiber of my being. I wanted to sing the Pie Jesu from Fauré’s Requiem, but I couldn’t get my Mother’s voice out of my head. She sang it so beautifully at the funeral of Helen Ann Williams Pawlowski, one of the other dear Mothers of my childhood. And she told my wonderful Pamela, who always was a sister, really, that she was not an orphan; she said she’d be her Mother, too. You cannot sing when you remember that.
So I played it for her. And then I started In Paridisum on a loop. But you always think there is more time. I’m glad I had leaned down close to her ear and touched her face and given her my thanks, all my love and told her to go to my Grandpa, for he had waited almost sixty years for her.
Though I didn’t know it until a few minutes later, I heard my Grandma’s last breath, just as I walked from the room to get doses of medication. When I went back into the room less than a minute later, I stood there with my hands full of syringes of liquid medication – just stood for few minutes at the side of her bed. I thought she might start breathing again (it happens) but she didn’t. I went and put the syringes down and came back to check her pulse. 11:55 p.m. January 6, 2009. Time of death.
I called my Mother. She was not surprised. I called hospice. I received, by some miracle, a call from my friend Grettir before anyone showed up. Bless him for having miraculous timing, compassion and patience when my life falls apart.
I had the privilege of helping the hospice nurse prepare my Grandma’s body for the Funeral Home. With reverential care she pulled the access needle from the port and removed the other tubes, we took off the cannula, she cleaned my Grandma while I helped move her body, and finally we put on a clean gown on her. She had to dispose of all the medications and she left. The funeral home gentlemen came and before they zipped up the home-made quilted shroud, and though I knew she was gone, I kissed my Grandma on her cool, smooth forehead.
I might protest at this juncture in some other entry that I had a point. I’m not sure that I do, unless it is to say that some moments in your life will never be forgotten. And many of these moments are ingrained on my psyche forever.
I had entries written in my head for my Grandma’s birthday (in JULY) and for other occasions, but they never made it to the page. Well, the title did. For when I was alone a year ago tonight – so alone – after they took my Grandma away and my Mom left, I didn’t know what do to. I had decided to stay with Lucy, her cat. That’s when I looked at her things. That’s when I laughed at some of the “collections” and cried at the beautiful letters written back and forth between she and my Grandfather.
I put on her anniversary band – ten diamonds in a band of white gold. She bought it herself on her Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary and it was the ring I remembered her wearing the most in the last decade. She was a little embarrassed that she’d purchased it for herself, but we all reassured her that my Grandpa would have wanted her to have it.
The ring is mine now. At some point after her Birthday, I started wearing it not just regularly, but night and day. My LIVESTRONG™ and other wristbands are a fixture as well unless I’m showering or the like. The most recent, a colo-rectal cancer wristband sent to me from Germany – a gift from my beloved Soul Sister, Henrike, was purchased in my Grandma’s honour.
So day and night, I wear my Grandma’s ring. I sleep with the diamonds on, because I cannot forget one year ago tonight. Nor can I forget a lifetime in which my beautiful Grandma was always, ALWAYS there for me. I will love you forever, Grandma.