Since her lung cancer diagnosis in November, I’ve wondered each time I leave my Grandma if it’ll be the last time I see her alive. I knew she was terminal, I knew she was steadily declining, I knew it wouldn’t be long. So I’m not sure why I was so stunned when my mom called Thursday to say that the hospice nurse didn’t expect her to live out the week. Of course we went for the weekend. How could we not see her one more time?
I wasn’t prepared for the state I found her in when we got there on Friday. For the first time, she looked like a hospice patient to me. She cant get out of her chair without someone lifting her. She recognizes people and follows conversation, for the most part, but she doesn’t have any facial expressions and hardly verbalizes at all. She said she was glad to have us there but she didn’t really participate much. I think the visiting was more for us than for her. Uncle Jordan flew in from Ohio and will stay a week. Aunt Lela came on a one way ticket from Utah. She’s staying “until the end” and will just drive back when her family comes for the funeral.
We hung on her every word. Anytime she’d talk or even gesture, we’d all lean in and listen closely, trying not to miss a thing. When I’d come into the room carrying Jace, she’d watch us and point at him. I asked her if she wanted to squeeze him, thinking she’d hold his arm or leg, but she wanted to hold him. She held him close to her and I warned that he might spit up on her. She whispered in his ear, “You’d better not!” It was so precious. I had to hold back the tears until I got in the car. She doesn’t like us to be tearful because crying makes her cough and often throw up.
Another favorite moment was today after church. Grandpa had gone to church with some family while my mom and I stayed home with Grandma. When Grandpa came home he said, “Hello my love” and she responded, “Hello dear.” He sat next to her and she reached for his hand. She was rubbing his hand with her thumb and he just sat there staring at her. I cant even imagine how hard it is for him to see his sweet, beautiful bride suffering like she is. She’s just not even the same person. Only occasionally did she say or do familiar things. We all sang one morning and didn’t get any response from her but Uncle Jordan put on a wig and she almost smiled! Almost! And she did ask little Jesse Gordon, “Well Jesse, what shall we do?” He smiled and said “I don’t really know, Grandma!”
I don’t want to remember the coughing and the other sad things but one time she tried to get up and then asked me, “Aren’t we gonna go?” I asked her where she needed to go and she looked around a little with a furrowed brow and then said, “Am I home?” I told her that she was and her face relaxed and she sat back.
We all sat outside their house and watched the 24th of July Pioneer Parade going down Church Street on Saturday. Grandma had us put her into the wheelchair and roll her onto the porch so she could watch the parade and smell the rain. Jordan offered a family prayer that evening as we all knelt around Grandma’s chair. He asked the Lord to bless us with understanding as we reluctantly let go of our sweet mother, grandmother, wife, and daughter. (Her mother, my great grandmother, is still alive and will turn 100 in December!) I doubt there was a dry eye in the room.
And then the moment came on Sunday afternoon for me to go home. I put it off several hours. How could I hug her knowing for sure it was the last time? How could I leave that house, knowing she wouldn’t be there the next time I go? Cohen made the decision for me. He put his head on my shoulder and said, “I want to go home, Mommy.” He’s never wanted to go home from Grandma’s house before. So I decided that was the moment. I took him with me for support. He kissed her with his sticky cherry sucker lips. She licked her lips and told him that was a yummy kiss and he smiled. I knelt in front of her and put my arms around her. I felt the familiar softness of her cheek on my cheek. I inhaled her familiar sweet smell. I kissed her cheek and hand and then I left, without saying a word. Words would have meant tears and tears make her cough. So I saved the tears for the slow drive out of town.
The next time I go to Thatcher will be for her funeral. I look forward to it with a fair amount of dread. I’ll cry for sure, but there are only wonderful things to say about her and only sweet memories to be shared by those of us who love her. She has influenced countless lives for good and will surely be welcomed home by loving arms. God will literally be with her until we meet again and what a great day that will be.
Here's another sweet tribute my younger cousin wrote.