Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I See the Moon and the Moon Sees Me

There's a gorgeous full moon out tonight and since Grama has died I feel close to her when I look up in that big sky and see that bright moon.  About a week after I got home from Montana and her funeral I was putting Casey out and saw that moon shining down and I knew, just knew, she was in a better place.

Although my three weeks with her were labored with questions and wondering why God had brought me to Montana and it appeared she wasn't going to die, the time together was precious.  Sacred.

One day, one that I spoke of in her eulogy, was particularly sweet.  I was sitting there holding her hand and offered to paint her nails.  They were brittle and peeling; she wasn't getting nearly the nutrition she needed to sustain them and I thought a little polish would be cheerful.

She agreed and I ran to the drugstore down the street and picked out a few colors.  When I returned I laid them out in front of her.  Without hesitation she quickly chose the brightest and perkiest pink of the bunch.  I polished her nails and toes and when she fell asleep and scuffed her thumbs I polished them again.

After she had fallen asleep I went into her bathroom to put the polish, remover and q-tips away.  Before putting it in the cabinet I looked at the name on the polish and it was "Rosy Future."  I just loved that.  Her future was indeed "rosy" as she prepared to meet her Savior face to face.

For the first week and half our days were filled of drinking milk shakes together and having candid talks about death and Heaven.  She wasn't afraid.  She didn't want to die but she certainly wasn't afraid.  We told each other a thousand "I love you's" and kisses.  As the days went on it got to the point where I couldn't bring my kids anymore but in the first week she had some special time with those great grandbabies who had come up with the name, "Gigi."

This picture just busts me up; here are my two Emily's sleeping in a little twin hospital bed.  It just cracks me up that Gigi's teeth have fallen out and are under Emily's arm.

Late in to the second week Grama's rally began to decline.  She stopped eating the few bites of 3 square meals and was sleeping almost all the time.  She was still able to swallow water and so we didn't have to give her her medicine through a syringe yet and that was a blessing.

At times she would seem to be hallucinating; she would look at me and her eyes were bright and voice clear but she would call me "Mama."  Towards the last week she called me Mama more than she did Jenny.  It didn't hurt me, in fact, I thought it was tender and precious.  I felt honored.  I also thought it was precious that in the end, no matter how old we are, we all want our mothers.

After we stopped going home at night and started staying with her around the clock I was on the night shift, sleeping in the recliner adjacent from her bed.  I heard her cry out, "Mama, Mama."  I sat up and saw her sitting up, wide awake.  "Grama, what do you need?  I'm here.  What do you need?"  "Whose cat is that?" she asked.  She was looking at the foot of her bed where there was no cat.  I got up and walked over to her bed.  "I don't know whose cat that is.  Is it yours?"  She nodded yes and smiled.  "What's your kitty's name?" I asked.  She looked at me like I was crazy and said in a know it all voice, "Kitty Cat."  Duh.

I asked her if she was thirsty and she said yes so I gave her a sip of water and she made a spitting sound over and over and then said, "Don't give that to Kitty Cat."  With that she laid down and went to sleep.

Thanks for letting me process through this bag of sorrow I'm dragging around.  It isn't much fun but as I cried and smiled while I wrote this I know its necessary.

One last picture.  I love this one; I loved her hands.  Even as a little girl I just loved how soft they always were.  This picture is special because we're holding hands and you can clearly see her two rings: her mother's ring and the ring my Mom bought herself, Grama and me.  We buried her with her mother's ring and the other one rests in a box waiting for little Emily to be old enough to wear and cherish.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Did You Expect?

It was exactly 23 hours from the time I got the phone call from Hospice to come to the time I was walked in to Grama's room at Autumn Springs. I held my breath and walked in...

She was sitting on the foot of her bed. Dressed. Talking to my Uncle Gene. Waiting for dinner. She squealed and held out her arms when she saw me.

To say I was surprised at her perky condition is the greatest of all understatements. I had read and re-read Hospice's booklet on what the last days of life looked like, you know the ones where they call family all the way from Oregon to come because they are the LAST FREAKING DAYS OF LIFE, and this picture of sass was not it.

Seeing that Gigi wasn't gasping for her last breaths, I ushered in Deb and the kids. My Mom arrived shortly after and we both just shrugged our shoulders. This wasn't the first time we had thought Grama was dying.

Later that evening Deb and the midgets went home with my Mom and I stayed with Grama. She was lying in her bed and smiling up at me. I told her how good she looked and that I was actually surprised to see her doing so well. She smirked and said, "What did you expect? This?" and with that she closed her eyes and folder her hands on her chest as if she were lying in a casket. I nearly choked with laughter and said "yes."

I told her Hospice had called me and that's when she got serious and said that the last few days had been very rough and that she didn't remember much. I asked her if she had remembered telling me to come. She said no. I asked her if she remembered not getting out of bed for the last week? She said no. I didn't get into the hallucinations and the other end of life signs she had shown; I just held her hand and told her that I was glad she was having a good day.

On my drive home I began the defeating questions that would plague me for the next 3 weeks. They would rob me of my joy, my faith, and my confidence. I would become so blinded by my own petulant selfishness that I would nearly miss the sacred joy of being with my Grama in her last weeks of life and the fulfillment of God's promises that He would never leave me nor forsake me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Beginning of the End
Probably the biggest hurdle to getting back in to blogging is knowing that I need to to blog about losing Grama before I can blog about anything else. And the kids' Halloween candy...that delicious goodness is also a hurdle.
I know you'd all, and by you all I mean Bestie Kim and Christene Johnson who are my only remaining readers, would still read if I just jumped into Samuel's epic melt down over wearing eyeliner on Halloween night and just completely skipped over the last 2 months.
With that said, for myself, I need to write about this. I was explaining to Bestie Maryanne yesterday that I've come to a good place: I have a deep wound but it is sufficiently scabbed over. To write about it will reopen that and I need to do it because I don't believe I've "dealed" with it. I'm a processer and I do that through writing/journaling and I have not had the time, nor the courage, to begin to do that.
November is blogging month and I guess bloggers try to blog once a day during blogging month. I'm hoping to blog once a day for the rest of the month and redevelop that muscle and maybe do a little healing in the meantime.
It was Wednesday, August 2nd, and I was having brunch with Bestie Kristan at French Press. I told her that Grama had worsened and that Hospice Sherry had called me that morning to tell me she thought it was nearing the time for me to come. Only the day before I had spoken to Grama on the phone and she was confused, restless, journeying back through time and asking me to be with her "in the end." As usual she was funny; I said "Grama, you really think it is close?" She replied, "Yes. Maybe this week or next." There was a long pause while I collected myself and she added dryly, "Or maybe a year." Hilarious.
Over our quiches Kristan encouraged me to go, she reminded me I would never regret the time.
All morning long I had been praying for God to show me whether or not it was indeed time to go. How can one predict death? How can a person just put a life on hold in Oregon indefinitely to go sit in Montana while one life ends? I was torn. I desperately wanted to be with my Grama. I wanted to hold her hand, to comb her hair, to kiss her face. I was tired of updates over the wire and wanted to be there. Grama had never asked much of me and she had clearly asked me the day before to be with her.
I wrestled, round and round, with the question of "what if?" What if I go out there and spend a few weeks, a month, and she doesn't die. Am I ok with that? Am I ok going out there and then not going back until it is time to bury her? What if she's right and she knows and it really is close? How will I forgive myself if I don't go and she dies without me kissing her one more time.
I prayed to God, "If I should go to Montana, give me a sign." I was going to set out my fleece: if Al was supportive and said to go, I would go. If he was hesitant and worried about coverage in the office I would wait it out until Gigi worsened.
After brunch with Kristan, I called Mom while driving to the office. "I don't know what to tell you" she said. "I will just pray that God shows you through Al if you should come or not." My jaw dropped. That was exactly what I was praying. I told her that and we both marveled at how God moves and works and orchestrates. God still speaks to us. If we will listen, God still speaks.
So I went to work, talked to Al and awaited his response. Without even asking to think about it he said, "You need to go."
Humbled at God speaking so clearly to me and humbled at Al's kindness.
Sweet Deb had said she would drive out there with the kids and me if when it came time Jeff couldn't go with us and then just fly back to Oregon. Hot Jeff decided he couldn't go with us for an indefinite amount of time but would fly out for the funeral and then drive us home so Deb and I set our sights on Friday deciding that tomorrow, Thursday, we would use to pack and get ready.
At 5:00 that same, long afternoon Hospice Sherry called and asked what I had decided. I told her I would be coming on Friday. She paused. "Should I come sooner?" I asked. She said she thought I should, Grama seemed to moving quickly through the last stages of the dying process. I hung up quickly and called Deb to see if she could leave by 8:30. She could.
There would be no words for my surprise when I saw my Gigi 23 hours later.