Friday, September 1, 2017

My grandma died today.

I've read accounts of people who were with loved ones at the time of death. It's supposed to be this peaceful, quiet last sigh where everyone is sad together but knows their loved one has moved on, guided by family and friends who preceded them to the afterlife. Everyone then continues with their lives, comforted through their grief, knowing that it will all be okay, fine, and dandy and the rest of us will feel that way, too.

I'll tell you what it was like for me.

Terrifying. Sweet. Horrible. Tender, yet gut-wrenching.

Grandma was surrounded by those who could get there in time to say goodbye. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even her only great-great-granchild and his sister-to-come.

We all got to hug her, kiss her, listen to her when she was lucid and laugh with her. Cry when she babbled and made no sense. And sit mournfully with each other while she slept. We as a family held hands, hugged, cried on shoulders, and felt each other's grief.

For a while she was on assisted breathing. A b-pap for those of you who know what the heck that is. I don't. I don't want to know. I've heard, "Oh, it's like a c-pap, but not." Don't know what that is either. Whatever. I don't care, but for those who are interested, that's what she was attached to.

The nurses turned it off while we were there. They gave her some pain medicine because her pneumonia made the breathing hard. After some family time talking to her, she was given some anti-anxiety medicine to help her relax through the coughing and breathing. That pretty much signaled the end.

Grandma said the following things between long silences, coughing, and awful wheezing breaths: "I have my lover right here," as she grasped grandpa's hand every so tightly. She never let him go, the entire time. Their connection was adorable and heart-wrenching.  "I'm so grateful I'll get to be with him again. I love him so much. I've spent the best 71 years with him."  "I tried the best I could to do right by all of you."

"Some lotion on my hands wouldn't be a bad thing." (At which point we all laughed and my uncles and aunts took turns rubbing in the lotion as they each held her hand)

"What are you all doing here?"
--"Well, we thought we'd drop in and say Hi."
"Why thank you! Hi!"

"I need to get up and get dressed. I need to go for a walk."
--"What are you going to do on your walk, mom?"
"Skip down the street!"
(It took two aunts and an uncle to convince her she didn't have the energy to get out of bed, let alone get up and get dressed. She disagreed; said she had plenty of energy.)

--"Grandma, your great-great grandson is here."
"Oh good! How many of those do I have now?"
"One!" (everyone answered this with a laugh)
Daria put grandma's hand on her very pregnant tummy, "And this will be your second great-great grandchild. Her name will be ---"
"Oh good, I'm so glad."  (or something like that. At that point, I couldn't hear through my tears)

Then more breathing. Wheezing. The waiting filled with gutteral soul-wracking moans that I can't describe, other than to say they were the sounds of her soul trying to separate from her body.

Grandma needed to go, but part of her fought against it to the last. Those deep agonizing wails would come out, seemingly from every pore, and they now haunt my shadows. I can hear them in the wind.

We gave her permission to go, told her we'd miss her. My oldest daughter came in and sang her a Jewish lullaby. The family sang primary songs. Still the moans persisted.

How do people watch this and still manage to keep breathing? Witnessing her body not know how to let go of her spirit was just as painful as my own emotional agony.

One of the most important people in my life was struggling to let go, and I couldn't do anything to help her.

The little kid in me was panicked. Wanted to know what would happen to me now. Who would pick me up and love me and feed me and clothe me and provide that security that we never had in my youth. What if her death affected my entire timeline and I was abandoned completely in those early years? Abandoned. That's what it felt like. It felt like I was being abandoned all over again.

Irrational yes, but she and grandpa were my stability. My home. My everything. Grandpa isn't complete without grandma. I don't know how to reconcile this abrupt change in my reality.

When the adavan finally kicked in and knocked her out, the moans stopped. At that point, I had to go sit in the waiting room. I couldn't be there at the very, very end because the pain in my chest was too crushing.

Grandma is a part of me. I'm proud of my heritage, proud of who she was and who she always strived to be. I'm grateful that Grandma could make us laugh at the end. Those memories will stick with me in honor of her spunky and fun personality. But they are accompanied by the darker skin-crawling sensation of life trying to crawl out of its tired 90 year-old shell.

The cycle of life, they say. "The wheel turns 'round like a merry-go-round; it lets some off and it takes some on..."

My daughter will be having a new daughter next month. One great woman leaves this realm while another soon-to-be great woman enters.

I don't like it. I don't want it to be a universal truth. I don't want to let go. I'm angry that my favorite people have had to age and be in pain and discomfort. I hurt. I feel like my heart has been ripped to shreds, leaving me with the task of figuring out how to put it back together again.

Platitudes like, "She's in a better place,"  or "She lived a long and wonderful life," Or "She's finally at rest," or "You'll see her again," are all things I already know. I already believe that. That doesn't make this any less traumatic.

The hospital we were in has awful memories for me, anyway, but now I never want to set foot in it again. Ever. I think I'd rather be numb than feel all these feels. I love her so very deeply.

I knew it would hurt when this day came. I didn't know it would hurt this bad or be so disturbing.

As far as I am concerned, death is not a beautiful thing.

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