It was Saturday morning when I got the call. My husband handed me the phone. I knew what was wrong even before I took the phone. My Gramma—almost 96 years old—was hemorrhaging. Her frail body wouldn’t be able to withstand the blood loss. She was dying.
My Mom and I each quickly packed a bag and headed on the highway up north to Barrie—about two hours from home. It’s so hard to remember what happened when. I know that my Gramma was not in her room. She had been moved to palliative care. That in itself was stunning. The week and a half or so that followed seems a blur. People came and people went. Gramma was blessed with a large family and extended family.
My sister travelled from Ottawa and met us in Barrie. There, with my Mom and two Aunts, the five of us kept vigil by her bedside. We made sure Gramma was never alone. Every time she opened her eyes—no matter how brief—she was met with a smiling face and a happy greeting. There were times when she was able to communicate. She strained to recognize us but we each had moments of “I love you.” They were special. Soon it became evident that she was agitated and uncomfortable. That’s when the morphine started. That’s when the decline really began. Eventually she became unresponsive and the decline increased.
I am grateful to have had all those special moments and days with my Gramma before she died. It was an experience like none other. I was also so fortunate to have had my Gramma for 50 years—not everyone is so lucky.
Before Gramma died I had to leave her bedside. My son was preparing to leave the country, cross the ocean and begin working as a volunteer at the International Scout Centre in Switzerland. I had to be there for him. It was a truly difficult situation which had me meltdown more than once. The act of leaving my Gramma was horrendous. But I had no choice. My son needed me.
My Dad drove me home. There I could focus on Nicolas and helping him prepare for his grand adventure. He was excited and I was excited for him. More so, though, I was anxious. My anxiety had steadily increased with my visit at Gramma’s, then leaving her, and now preparing to lose my son as well—albeit just for four months. It was becoming more than I could bear.
The scene at the airport was sad. Everyone cried. I was missing Nic already. Where had the time gone? He is 21 now and very much his own person. But still my first born, and still my little boy. The separation anxiety is painful. I have pictures and notes to look forward to. He has already texted a few times and posted beautiful pictures of the Alps. It’s almost been a week. I miss him so much.
The next morning my Dad picked me up to head back up north. I was hoping my Gramma had the strength to hold on until we got there. The truth is she didn’t. We arrived a few hours too late. She was peaceful in her bed, just as I had left her. Again I cried so hard. My poor cheeks were dry from wiping tears away. The next couple of days were full of funeral plans and passing time. It was so somber.
Then came the funeral—a celebration of life—Gramma’s wonderful life. She looked beautiful and at peace as she rested in her final bed of satin. She wore a gorgeous royal blue blouse that I picked out. That made me feel good. And then, in the end, I was fortunate enough to be one of the pall bearers—an incredible experience itself. Putting Gramma in the hearse was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.
So here I am now, almost two weeks later, numb. Numb from pain, sorrow, and physical and emotional exhaustion. Life will carry on, but it will never be the same.