My grandmother died almost four weeks ago. I'm finally writing about it now.
For the last two years or so, she hasn't felt great. Not dying and invalid unwell, but just but bubbling right under the weather sick. She had troubles with her teeth and gums, had cataract surgery, and had been prone to dizzy spells for days at a time. Nothing to suggest the end was near.
This news sent my grandmother into what you could call a death spiral. She muddled through the next week, refusing to go back to the doctor to get bad news, barely being able to talk. I called her on a Wednesday and talked briefly to see how she was doing. She asked for us to pray for her.
That was the last time I talked to her. Ten days later, she was gone. The next week after our phone call, she had a lot of trouble breathing, and finally, she went back to the doctor. An MRI discovered a tumor the size of a peach on her lung. It was pushing on her vocal chords and also hampering her breathing. It's amazing she lived as long as she did with this thing in her chest. But it did explain her weight loss (down to 85 pounds) and the dizziness. Perhaps if it had been caught a couple years ago, there would have been something that could have been done (not that stubborn Grandma would have submitted to more doctor's appointments). Not this late. The tumor was confirmed on a Tuesday, she died in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Mom called me that Saturday morning to tell me Grandma was gone. I was taking the dog out when I got the call. I walked back inside and told Lori and the boys. After a little while, I walked to church about three blocks away to light some candles in Grandma's memory. I'm not that devout, but it just felt right. I was so sad, as I had been all week, knowing the end was near. As I knelt in front of the statue of Mary, I could hear a few people saying a rosary near the front of the church. It was oddly cathartic -- by the time I left, most of the sadness had washed away. I still felt bad, but not as achingly bad.
That was more than three weeks ago. I still get pings of major sadness that Grandma died. And I'm still going to write about her in this blog in the coming weeks. I picked out a star for her, something I can look at to remind me of her. It's going to drift out of the sky as summer rolls around, but I already am thinking about a constellation for Grandpa -- I'll have one of them year round. The tough part for me is that I didn't have time to prepare. Cancer patients might not die for years. Grandma wasn't feeling good for a while, but it suddenly got bad, the cause was discovered, and she was dead a few days later. In three weeks, she went from functioning to dying. It was all too quick.
When thinking about who she was waiting for, I hope it was my grandfather. They used to have a affectionate banter in which Grandma would ask if he wanted something, and he'd reply "I'm waiting." My sisters used to think Grandpa was so bossy, but in reality, it was something endearing for them, kind of a joke. They were married 28 years (he's our step-grandfather), but he died 10 years ago. I want to think he finally came for her and said "I'm waiting," which was what she needed to hear to let go and for them to be together again.