Saying Goodbye

My Grandma passed away last Tuesday evening. She was 87 years old, so this wasn’t exactly a shock. And yet, somehow, it still was.

It’s odd that she would pass on a Tuesday: For the last couple of years, I’ve had a standing visit with Grandma every Tuesday night. It was just something that fit into my schedule. Bryan sees a group of old buddies every Tuesday night, so it gave me a chance to spend some quality time with Grandma. I don’t really know what I’ll do with myself on Tuesdays now.

Grandma and I talked about a variety of things during those visits. She told a lot of stories about her childhood. She talked about her mom, and my Grandpa, and the people she missed. She talked about how lonely she was. And she talked about dying. A lot. Grandma was ready  to move on from this life.

Grandma had good weeks, and bad weeks. Some weeks she would be happy to see me, and would talk for hours. Some weeks she would seem confused, and repeat the same stories over and over. Some weeks she looked terrible, and would stare off into space while I tried to get her talking. There was never any consistency from one week to the next; Every week I would tell her goodbye, knowing it might be the last time I saw her. And every week I worried what I was walking in to when I came to visit.

My Grandma had just been moved into an Assisted Living Facility this Spring. Over time, and for a variety of reasons, a lot of the family became less involved in Grandma’s life. I don’t blame anyone; We all have Seasons in our life when we have more or less time for family. There were years in my life when I didn’t see Grandma as often as I should have. It happens. And Grandma had a large hand in creating the situations that kept some people away.

Death always brings about a range of emotions in people. One of the things I struggled with the most in the days following Grandma’s death was the number of times I heard “Someone should have told me!” I understand where it was coming from: Many people felt a combination of guilt at not seeing Grandma, along with the need to blame someone. That blame was aimed at an Aunt, who was supposed to be managing Grandma’s care. But, as the only person who saw Grandma on a regular basis, I couldn’t help feeling the burn of all that blame.

My Aunt had set up a private family Facebook page, where everyone could post information regarding Grandma. I regret not making more posts about how Grandma was doing week to week. But, at the time, it felt like that would come across wrong, as though I was bragging that I was visiting Grandma every week, when others weren’t. Besides, what would I post? It seemed like such an invasion of her privacy, or betrayal of trust, to share things about her on social media*.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving I had seen Grandma. Honestly, she looked terrible. But she told me she had a bladder infection, and had been prescribed antibiotics. Who doesn’t feel terrible when they have a bladder infection? I made sure to give my Mom an update before I left on vacation, just in case.

On Saturday, the nurses had her admitted to the Hospital, and notified my Aunt; Turns out, it wasn’t a bladder infection. It was likely cancer, although we’ll probably never know at this point. My Aunt posted on Facebook that Grandma was in the Hospital, but was expected to go home on Monday. Bryan offered to leave from our vacation early, but I told him it wasn’t necessary. We came home on Monday afternoon; Grandma wasn’t doing as well as expected, so she would be staying in the Hospital. I should have gone to see her then, but I didn’t. After all, I’d see her Tuesday!

My Aunt’s family was at the Hospital off and on to see Grandma; The rest of the family has a bad relationship with them**, so I think that kept many people away. On Tuesday, my Aunt posted that Grandma wasn’t doing any better. Around 5 pm, my Aunt called to see if I still planned to see Grandma (Of course!), and to let me know she was still at the Hospital. She gave me an update on how Grandma was doing, and asked that I call my Mother. I called my Mom, who asked that I call her back once I’d actually seen Grandma, and give her an update. I talked to another Aunt. I talked to my older sister, and convinced her to meet me at the Hospital when she got off work. I took too much time leaving from work.

When I got to the Hospital, my cousin and her Dad were sitting in the lobby. They told me that Grandma seemed better, and was chipper and talking. My Aunt and one of my Uncles were back visiting with Grandma, but they told me I could go on back. I knew how desperately Grandma wanted to see her children, so I didn’t go back. After all, I see her every week. I could wait a few more minutes.

Fifteen minutes later, a nurse came rushing to get us. By the time we made it back to the room, Grandma was gone.

I regret not going to see Grandma on Monday. Or leaving earlier from work on Tuesday. Not for me: I said my goodbyes every week. After all, Grandma was 87 years old, and at peace with dying. It was only a matter of time. But I wonder if Grandma thought we didn’t care enough to come see her. If she died thinking that no one could be bothered to make the time for her.

Every “Someone should have told me” cut a little deeper. They weren’t aimed at me, but they hurt all the same. After all, I was the one who saw her. If I would have known…

I’m sad that my Grandma is gone. I’ll miss our visits together. I’m sad that this was the last tie holding together two parts of my family, and there are people I love (though I may not always like them) who I will probably never see again. I’m glad that Grandma is at peace now. She’ll no longer be lonely, or hurt, or in pain. I’m thankful for a lifetime of memories, especially all that I gained over the last few years. I’m raw, and yet somehow numb; 2015 has been a terrible year, and there’s only so much grief one family can handle.

  • Cindy W.

*It probably seems a little odd, saying I wasn’t comfortable sharing on social media about how she was doing, and then posting so much detail on this blog. But I feel like there’s a difference between an anonymous blog post, and sharing the details of someone’s life with people they know. Especially since there were people who knew her, but weren’t involved in her life within that group.

**I’m one of the few people still on speaking terms with my Aunt’s family. I make an effort, partly because of Grandma, and partly because family is family, no matter what. I’m not sure what happens to those relationships from here. 

Comments

  1. Cindy, I’m sorry for your loss. You sound like a very good granddaughter. I know that’s not what you were going for in this post but I’m sure your grandma appreciated seeing you every week.

    1. Thank you. I appreciated the time I got to spend with her. And I learned lessons that will shape the rest of my life. I sometimes feel like I gained more than she did from our visits. But I know she loved seeing me.

  2. I’m really sorry for your loss. And I’m also 100% sure that your grandmother really appreciated all the time you spent with her. As for the rest of your family — it sounds ridiculous that they’re spending all this time saying someone should have told them. Why didn’t they go see her themselves!? That’s on them, not you. I hope you have some time to keep reflecting and mourning as you navigate all the practicalities.

    1. Thank you C! I really am thankful for the time I had with her. And I know that she was ready, so that brings me some peace.

      It makes me sad that there are people in the family that I’ll likely lose touch with after this. But, it is what it is. Adding to the drama is the fact that Grandma was very passionate about donating her body to science once she was gone, and made sure everything was in place for that to happen. She talked to me about that decision all the time, and I think it’s awesome that she did it. Some family members are upset that they didn’t know, and that they won’t have a chance to say goodbye at the Memorial.

      I know some people want that closure. But, you’re never guaranteed that! What’s a goodbye once someone is gone? You should let people know you love them while they’re still here to appreciate it!

  3. Oh, Cindy, I’m so sorry. I know the feeling — I deeply regret deciding not to fly home to see my grandmother the week before she passed. But know that as the days and years go by, I know you will see that she lives on in the things you do, and the woman you are. I know that doesn’t make it hurt any less. So take good care of yourself for now. *hugs*

    1. Thank you, Zoe! I go back and forth between being really sad, and at peace about the situation. And I’m really glad that she got to see two of her children before she passed. It isn’t what it should have been, but you can’t change the past!

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