I'm writing this after much Fireball and Dr. Pepper 10 with my best conservative bestie (redundant I know, but fuck off, we're going to rule the world someday.)
I said goodbye to Grandma today. It was so beautiful. I usually shy way from flowery, elaborative language, but there's no other way to describe it. I am so fortunate to have had the time I had with her today and the time over the course of the last year during her treatments when I sat with her.
When I first got to her house, she was coming out of the bathroom and asked for a hug while she was standing up before she went to lie down. I told her "What a wonderful life you've led" and she agreed. After a few minutes I went into the office that had been turned into her bedroom for logistical reasons and laid down with her.
I held her hand. She patted my arm.
I asked her all the questions I've always wanted to ask a dying person but have never had the opportunity.
Are you scared? (No, I'm not honey. And I don't want to be gross but the sooner the better.)
Do you have any regrets or anyone you want to see? (No, honey just my grandchildren and I'm so happy you're here.)
You've been the most wonderful grandma anyone could ever have, and I'm so lucky you're mine. (Honey, you've grown up to be a wonderful, beautiful woman and I'm so proud of you. I'm so glad to be your grandma.)
I can't right now. I'm sobbing so hard I'm about to hyperventilate. How does one do this? How do you support someone who is in obvious pain and dying? No answers, sorry.
Through the course of the next five hours, I went in and out of her room several times. I read her the mail she received today, one from a second or third cousin in California who shared a couple of hymns with her and told her about the Christian radio station he likes to listen to. He included $10 for her favorite pastries, which was so kind of him. Sobbed while reading that one to her. He wrote about how much he admired her love for her mother, his cousin and my great-grandma who died last March, a few months shy of her 100th birthday. He wrote about how much he admired her faith and listed a couple of his favorite Bible verses.
She laid there and listed to it, stoically. Shedding a tear but not nearly what the rest of us were emoting. How do you go about the business of dying when there is a constant stream of people coming in and out who don't want you to die?
I asked her if she was in pain. She's past sugar-coating and said, yes, some. She had a dose of oral morphine several times while we were with her.
She and I had a good chuckle about how similar dying is to being born. You are in diapers. You eat liquid food. Everyone makes a fuss over you. This is just her and I, laying in her bed. Her doing her best to breathe in and out, me doing my best not to lose my ever-loving shit as she's trying to get through the day with dignity.
I went in and out of the room, alternating between sitting in the living room with my husband and various cousins and sitting in the kitchen eating McDonald's with other cousins and grandma's husband. She felt well enough to eat 2/3 of an apple fritter and wanted a cheeseburger from McDonald's. I would have brought her prime rib had she asked.
How do you ask for a cheeseburger, knowing it will be the last one you eat?
I'm beyond pissed at her pastor. She wanted to see him today because she has a special project she needs his help with and she won't tell any friends or family about it. She's so over this and wants to die, and yet he won't come until tomorrow at 2:00. He doesn't have a cell phone and requires his parishioners to call his "office" and leave a message so he can call them back. Fuck that shit. She doesn't want to have to keep this up until tomorrow afternoon. She grimaced when we told her he wasn't coming until tomorrow, but then looked on the bright side and said it gave her more time to be organized.
I asked her if she wanted me to hunt him down and drag his ass to her house. She said no, it was ok. But could I get her 27 big envelopes from her office to get ready to give to him when he does show up.
I would do anything for her. I told her of course. I told her there was still time to change her mind and be cremated and I would take her ashes to Spain in May and spread them over the Pyrenees where she could be closer to God. She told me thanks, honey, that's ok. I'll be close to him soon enough.
I told her how proud I am of the fight she's put up and the grace with which she has gone through all of this. She's been amazing and didn't give up until her final treatments failed to do anything. I told her how glad I am that I came and sat with her during her treatments throughout the last year. I told her I knew I would regret it if I didn't and am so glad I don't have any regrets.
She told me how special that time was to her and how glad she was that I'd made the time to sit with her. I told her she is the best. She told me, You are too, you know that right? Yes, I do.
She asked my uncle if he'd taught his grandson the word "asshole." She normally never swears, so it was both hilarious and dismaying because we know she has no fucks left to give.
V was cute with her. She wanted to be sure she was covered up in bed if she wanted to be and if she was ok. After grandma assured her that she was, V came out to the living room and announced that "Grandma is ok." She doesn't really know what's happening, but she knows grandma is sick and she wants her to be ok.
How do I explain it to her? I know I'll tell her that her body was sick and now she's gone.
I told grandma several times throughout the day that I won't forget her. That I will make sure V remembers her. That she has been the best grandma I ever could have hoped for.
I reminded my cousin of the time during our great-grandpa's funeral when she commented on how sad it would be when grandma died if we were this sad when our great-grandpa died. It is so much exponentially harder.
We hung around for probably longer than we should have. V was getting punchy and tired and Andy was ready to leave. How could I, though? I knew it would be the last time I would get to hug her, talk to her, hear her voice, even though it's more hoarse and weak than normal. How the hell am I supposed to leave someone who has been such a big, positive part of my life for the last 33 years?
When I did get around to hugging her goodbye for the last time and smelling her scent (overlayed with sickness) for the last time, I told her how happy I was that she'd made the mistakes that she did (having my dad at 17) because it meant I had so many more years with her. Many of my friends have parents almost as old as she is. How lucky am I that I had my grandma until my 33rd year.
One of my tears dripped onto her arm, and she said, "the last tear that my oldest grand-daughter will cry on me." I can't you guys. I can't fucking deal with this.
We told each other how much we love each other. At least a dozen times. I didn't want to get too upset or make a scene. She was sad, but her pain and exhaustion outweighed the sadness. She is done. She is ready. She is sad, but not scared. She wants us to continue to get together as an extended family at Christmas. I told her we would, but I don't know if that will happen. There are a lot of personality differences and weird dynamics that might prevent it.
My eyes are swollen shut. My nose is raw. I'm writing this because I don't want to forget a single word we exchanged today. Everything I said to her is something I wouldn't have had a chance to say had she died in an accident or had the cancer taken her faster than we were willing to let her go.
Fuck cancer, yes. But it's not the worst way to go. She and I agreed that we were so thankful to have a chance to say proper goodbyes, to give hugs, to say anything we needed to say before the end.
What a gift cancer gives us, really. A slow death yes, but with that slow death the chance to give a last hug, say a last thank you, I love you, I'll miss you. To ask the questions I haven't been able to ask anyone else.
I must really be drunk, to say thank you to cancer, and yet, had I not had a chance to live through this day, the regrets would weigh forever.
A good life. Not a bad end. An amazing woman who I will love forever.