Last Tuesday when I got the frantic call that Grandmother had fallen and broken her neck, my heart sunk to my stomach. She arrived a few hours later at a closer hospital and when she was getting out of the ambulance and she knew who she was, where she was, her medications…. A little part of me thought everything would be okay. You see, Grandmother was a fighter. She lived independently till the day of the fall, and any other life for her would not be acceptable. Over the week following that fall, and the hours I was blessed to spend with her there are some things I know for sure:
I have no regrets over eating those chocolate covered cherries for the first several years of dating Jim. Every year for Christmas she bought them for me, and every year I hated them, and every year I didn’t want to tell her because I wanted her approval. Over the years she would consistently get my name mixed up (Shelly, Terry, etc…) but was always spoken in love. And over the years, I did gain her approval to marry her Grandson. And over the last week of her life as she looked at me and told me she loved me, I secretly smiled that every cherry I ate was so worth it.
Staying together is of utmost importance. She made the three grandchildren here in PA stand around her bed with our spouses and promise to stay together and seal with a kiss. She made her two daughters also make the promise to stand by each other. She needed to know that we would be okay and there for each other when she would no longer be here.
Hearing a 92-year-old sing Jesus Loves Me can bring anyone to tears. The beauty and simplicity of the words still makes me cry thinking of that. The knowing that she knew she was loved. When this world feels like it is crashing in, I will play back her voice and know Jesus Loves Me!
The power of prayer by the weakest of voices is immeasurable. I was blessed to spend several nights with Grandmother and on the two when she was still very aware of the fact she was dying, I listened to her tell the Lord she loved him… asked forgiveness for any sins.. and that the Good Lord would take her home. She was so weak and soft spoken, but God heard… And on the last night, as I softly prayed for her, God heard…
Look your best for times that matter most – on the day that the Pastor would come to the bedside to give her communion at home, she was worried about how she would look and wanted her dentures in. We assured her she looked beautiful without them (had she ever seen the brace on her neck or the bruises on her face, she would have likely been mad). But we got them in and I joked with her that we must be chopped liver if she only wanted them in for him. But looking back, I think she knew that it would be her last communion and she wasn’t worried about the Pastor, but how she looked for the moment of spending with God. She told the Pastor that day, the next time she saw him it would be with wings, I believe that was her wish, as she only saw the Pastor one more time without them.
Make your words count – Grandmother was VERY hard of hearing. Instead of trying to do a big explanation, it was best to keep it simple. Say I LOVE YOU clearly.
Honesty is always the best policy – we had several evening conversations when everyone would go home. She would ask if she would be okay… I would say when she got to Heaven. We would talk about all the people that would be waiting for her in Heaven. At first, I knew she was torn between staying on earth and going to Heaven. And well…. I was torn with letting her go!
Be a fighter and a lover – In the past week I have seen both in Grandmother. She was always great for an argument. In the hospital, I rallied that fighting spirit, because if she was to pull through, that would be the only way. It was that very spirit that kept her alive the morning of the fall as ust a short time passed till she was fond. But as I mentioned earlier, she wanted us all to stay together. Despite the fights, kiss and make up. Love always wins the fight.
The power of positive thoughts can bring a calmness. In the hospital she would yell out for help. So when I spent time with her in the evenings I tried to put positive words in her mind to think of. A few back-fired – like mentioning her daughter because then she demanded I call her and I had to decline her request. I can still see her look at me in disbelief that I told her no. But once I mentioned Mary and Sammy, her tone changed, a calmness came, and she smiled and called out Sammy the rest of the night.
The physical touch love language, when spoken, can change everything. I have said a million times, and Jim’s family knows, I am NOT a touch person. You hug, and I cringe. However, I became Grandmother’s personal massage therapist. She LOVED her back rub, and I loved hearing the happiness in her voice over them. A simple touch made those suffering moments more tolerable.
I have not done “hands on nursing” for many years and have not spent my time at the bedside of someone I loved in almost 16 years (my mom). It is LIFE CHANGING and I so forgot that feeling. I am so blessed to have that time with her. The time when the person you loves reviews their “checklist” of their greatest accomplishments is always the people they loved. May I remember that daily, that at the end of the day, the week, the month, my life… my greatest accomplishments is in the people I love (not the degree I had, the hours I worked, etc…)
Grandmother was an amazing woman who will so be missed on earth, but so celebrating (and square dancing in heaven). How blessed Jim, and I and our children were to have her in their lives. I am so thankful that I am a nurse and could * offer words of advice to the family when the system could easily loose you. * share priceless conversations in the middle of the night * help ease her pain through simple touch and simple words (and a hint of medicine – lol). * show her respect and dignity that she so deserved * know without a doubt that she went to Heaven.
R.I.P. dear Grandmother – our lives will not be the same without you here, but know that our lives have forever been enriched by the legacy you leave within each of us.