In the middle of transitioning her from her wheelchair to her bed after this morning's bathroom break, she suddenly stopped what we were doing, looked at me and said "Goodbye dear." I wanted to hurry her along, get her safely in bed, so I started to joke, would normally joke "where are we going?" because lately she'll say just about anything at anytime, but something about her tone was different, so I looked up from what I was doing. I looked right at her, and she was there. She was in there, somehow, in the midst of enough drugs to be hot air balloon-high, she was lucid enough to offer me this. "Have a good life", she told me, reaching for a kiss. "And no matter what, no slander from you, no slander from me. We'll just be happy for the life that we had these three months." I swallowed back my tears and said "Yes ma'am. Never: I love you." "And sometimes say a prayer for me." "Always," I said. It was all I could say, even if I could have managed more (and there was so much more I wanted to say: I have nothing but good things to say about you, forever. I'm not going to let these last few months smear your memory, and I know in your heart you know how much I love you. I'll miss you. Don't go.) she had closed her eyes again, and you could see the cloud was back.
Now this is not miraculous, you might say, but you would be wrong: for days, in the rare moments that she hasn't been completely knocked out, we've been talking about eating butterflies and dinner parties that happened in 1969; she's been (her version of) cursing out my Uncle and I for holding her prisoner here, when she just has to "go or I'll scream"; she's been in near coma-levels of sleep for the most part, waking only when her anxiety or pain levels break through what the meds can control. She hasn't really been lucid in over a week, hasn't been aware like she was for those three minutes, in weeks to months, really. So those three minutes? More miraculous than any other I've been lucky enough to live through.
Tiny miracles: I'll take them.
Especially now ~
My grandmother, a great lady, wonderful mother, open-hearted, strong-willed, surprisingly versatile woman, passed away on Saturday afternoon. She had been having some trouble breathing earlier that afternoon, so I adjusted her oxygen, gave her her medicine, offered her a weak smile: "Don't give me that fake smile", she whispered in her all of the sudden raspy voice, "You look exhausted." "So do you," I said "Get some rest." And then she went to sleep and I laid down on the couch maybe 5 yards away.
A half an hour later, my uncle went in the room and called out to me: "She's not breathing; I think she's gone." Her hands were cold, but the rest of her was still warm, that's how recently she had passed. Within a half an hour from the time I had been holding her hand, getting scolded, giving her a kiss. She went quietly - I never heard even the tiniest gasp - a peaceful end after all these months of drama and unrest.
Thank you all for all your support these past months: I can't express just how much it means to me. For listening to all the ranting about dementia and how much I hate it; about the pressure and the heartache and the loneliness. I know it's been a dark blog as of late, because I had very little else to talk about, and I appreciate all of you who said even the smallest words of encouragement - I needed them more than I could say.
I don't really know what happens now: I'm feeling such a mixture of relief and sadness and numbness that I can barely get the simplest of tasks accomplished... I know that'll wear off as the days go on. Her memorial is Thursday & the funeral on Friday, and I'm trying to get everything organized for all of that: it's good to have things to focus on... a project to complete. I'm going to do that for now, and think about how lucky I have been to have her in my life, for as long as I did, even through these last hellish months. To have held her hand right before she left this world, well, that's not something I'll ever forget.
*Trees Joyce Kilmer: a line from Grandmother's favorite poem.