Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Another Goodbye

There are moments you hope never end; moments that are so perfect you want them to last on forever. Take this picture - it was taken about a month ago. It's my grandmother, Mimi, playing with her newest great-grandson. Three days earlier, he'd arrived in the United States in the arms of my brother and sister-in-law. Aiden was meeting his new great-grandmother for the first time.

Unfortunately, all perfect moments come to an end.

Two weeks ago, my phone rang at work. It was my mother, telling me that she was following an ambulance to the hospital. My grandmother had apparently suffered a stroke sometime that morning, and she had most likely been alone several hours before anyone knew there was a problem.

A week ago, I stood in a sweltering, institutionalized room in the hospice wing of a nursing home, watching her slowly fade. The stroke had been massive, and at 93 there was little hope of recovery. She was only able to communicate intermittently at best, so we gathered, we watched and waited.

It's hard watching anyone go through something like this, let alone a loved one. You don't know how aware she is; whether she knows that she's surrounded by family; how much of her survived the stroke.

And I think that's the cruelest part of it all. She was fiercely independent. She lived alone up until the stroke, and she fought like hell for three years against even a cleaning lady coming in once or twice a week. (Incidentally, she fired her cleaning lady the day before the stroke). She despised the cane and later the walker, but she realized that they had become necessary. Her mind, while still sharp, was trapped within her slowly failing body.

She raised her two children alone after my grandfather died in 1950. She was 36. She didn't have her GED until 1966; she worked until she was 82. She carried a picture of my grandfather in her wallet until the day she died.

Seeing her lying in a hospice bed, unable to move, unable to speak, unable to laugh was nearly unbearable. I only hope that our presence there made it a little easier on her.

We buried Mimi on Sunday. Family, friends and loved ones trudged through the snow and ice to say farewell. We miss her, and we always will.


Student of Life said...

I am so, so sorry. I'm sure she would have been touched by the words you wrote here. They are beautiful.

Farrell said...

So sad; good tribute.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about your Grandma Brian. Thinking of you all. Aaron