I listened and waited as each of his children took their turn visiting him. They helped him get to doctor appointments and radiation treatments. He says it felt like a party. He and Grandma got to spend time with each of their four children, and they stopped for lots of treats along the way. Food is our family love language, so stopping for pie makes even the worst news a bit sweeter.
About 2 or 3 weeks after he was diagnosed, on March 13, I received a text from my mom that grandpas was being rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Tears flowed. I had not seen him since his diagnosis. Though I had visited often over the years, it was very important to me that I had at least one more hug from my grandpa.
I asked my mom if I could please go to visit the following day, and hurriedly made arrangements for my kids and job. I felt a complete sense of urgency to get to my grandparents.
By the grace of God my grandfather was doing a bit better by the time I arrived the next morning. Though he had gained an astronomical amount of weight due to fluid build-up and was clearly uncomfortable and exhausted, he was in good spirits. He was kind, compassionate, and always-joking - which is the essence of my grandma. He and Grandma and I had a wonderful day just sitting together. We spoke some, but I mostly just soaked in their presence. I thought often that I should snap a photo of the day because it was so beautiful to me. It was filling a longing deep in my soul, and I was so very grateful.
Grandma and I left Grandpa for a while in the afternoon so he could rest. We headed to lunch and then bought some groceries. She told me about a new recipe she was planning to try. She explained why she used distilled water in her iron. (Embarrassing truth, I rarely iron anything.)
We headed back to the hospital with a little ice cream treat for Grandpa.
After he ate supper, Grandma gave him two kisses and wished him a good night. I gave him a hug and told him I would be back with Grandma in the morning.
We went through a fast food joint on our way to their farm.
When we arrived at the farm the evidence of their new limitations was clear. There were wheel tracks leading across their front lawn, right up to the front door. My grandparents have always had a beautifully kept yard. The fact that they had ruined the grass to save some steps spoke volumes to me.
I followed the path, parked just feet from the door, and helped my grandma inside.
She checked messages and returned phone calls. I unloaded groceries.
We each settled into a glider in the office and chatted and read before bed. She told me all the news about her siblings and my cousins. I told her details about Krissy's upcoming wedding, silly stories about Mataya and Wyatt, and we discussed menu ideas for Jamison's graduation party.
We went to bed early.
I woke up the next morning in a panic. I could hear her alarm clock playing, but I could not hear her moving around. My grandma was the strongest frail woman you have ever seen - but she was frail. She had had congestive heart failure for almost 17 years (when diagnosed the doctor expected her to only survive 2 years). She had had blood cancer for over a decade as well. It had become active again recently so she was taking chemo pills. Through it all she cooked and cleaned. She quilted and gardened. She sold Avon and went to Circle. She moved more slowly, but she never stopped moving. With Grandpa so sick, and her health history, I had been terrified every moment she was under my care. The thought of anything happening to her brought panic to my heart. So, when I heard her get up and head to the bathroom, I was so relieved.
I got up and dressed. I headed to the kitchen to start coffee. She headed back to bed for a bit. I could hear her softly snoring, and I was so thankful she was getting some rest.
It did not take long and she rushed into the kitchen, worrying about my coffee. I told her it was taken care of. She headed to her bedroom to pack up a few things.
A bit later I had breakfast ready - scrambled eggs, bagels, and oranges. We ate together. We chatted comfortably. We decided we should pick up her taxes from their accountant before heading up to the hospital. She seemed so good. I was so relieved.
She headed to get dressed and fix her hair. I set about cleaning up the kitchen.
I finished the kitchen clean-up and sat down in the silent kitchen to do my devotions. I considered carrying things out to the car, but decided I did not want to leave Grandma in the house alone.
After a bit more time, I started to feel uneasy. She had become much more slow in her movements, but maybe I should check on her. . . just in case. Or not? There is nothing I hate more than someone pounding on my bathroom door when I am preparing for my day. I debated for a few moments, and finally decided to ask through the door if I could get her a bit more coffee.
I called through the door, but there was no response. With my heart pounding, I opened the door.
The moments that followed were some of the hardest, most helpless, and emotionally painful of my life. Much of it is a blur.
But as I look back on it, one thing is crystal clear. My grandma's face was completely at rest. Her eyes were closed, her face was relaxed. She was not in pain or suffering in any way. There was no struggle, only peace. Though clinically speaking she died in the ambulance heading to the hospital, in my heart I know she was already home with Jesus when I found her. The only pain and panic in the room belonged to me, thank you Jesus.
Though I am absolutely heartbroken, I am also so very thankful. She slipped silently and painlessly from her earthly home to heaven. It was, as my grandpa said, "about as good as it gets." And though being there was hard, it was also a gift. The peace I witnessed will never leave me. I will hide it in my heart and cling to it the rest of my days.
We celebrated my grandma's life these past two days.
It was a fantastic party.
She would have been amazed at the attendance. And the flowers, oh the flowers were magnificent. Nearly as magnificent as her yard in July.
I count myself very lucky. My grandma knew each of my children. The oldest ones spent some of the best days of their childhood climbing her tickle tree (weeping willow), building forts in the trees, and chewing unlimited pieces of Big Red gum. I was even able to introduce her to my first grandson. Not many grandmas are able to ask their own grandmother for advice on being a grandma!
I am greedy though. I would have preferred a few more decades.
The last day I spent with her. . . the last day of her life, she told me "There really is not anything I would change about my life. It has been a good life. We didn't have everything - but we had all we need. I guess it might not seem like much to someone else, but to me it was just about perfect."
She was such a gift.
My only regret, though he would not want me to have it, is that I did not keep my promise and return my grandma to grandpa. I know he is so thankful I was there. He holds no malice - and I know it is an irrational regret. But I am grieving. I don't have to be rational.
My grandparents would have been married 63 years on April 17.
They loved each other well. (to say the least)
My grandfather is currently very ill. So ill, he was not able to attend grandma's service. Very soon he will be joining her in heaven. And although I hate that thought, I feel too emotionally drained to even consider it, my deepest prayer is that he will have just as peaceful a transition from this world to that as my grandma did.
I would appreciate your prayers for my family as we grieve the loss of my grandma and do our best to serve my grandfather well in these his final days.
My grandparents gave me many gifts over the years, but without a doubt, the greatest gift they have ever given me is the assurance that we will meet again someday. I will miss her, and I grieve for all of us left behind. But to her I say, "Congratulations! Welcome Home!"
"Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere."
I look forward to the day when we are forever reunited in heaven.
Thank you Jesus. In You, we always have hope.