Upon hearing that my Grandmother (Nanny) was ill, I visited home last Friday morning (drove 9 hours overnight)… I met up with my boyfriend B at Waffle House. We had a rushed but much needed dinner, we said our goodbyes, I packed up all my things and my 2 dogs, and I was gone.
I’m so glad I got home in time.
Within a day, my older Sis had arrived from Cali, too. And before I knew it, I was there sleeping in the same bed with her at Mom & Dad’s place (in our little Sister Kristie’s old room) for a few nights. We tried to make light of Dad’s incessant groaning (from his issues with his COPD, over-using his inhaler, and his Alzheimers issues), but also wanted to be there for Mom and our grandnother, who was given just a day or two more to live.
We were there for Grandma, but also for Dad. I’m so glad I got to see my Grandmother before she passed, where I whispered sweet things to her, saying she was in my prayers and ‘God has you.’ My Nannie laid there asleep, her mouth agape, with a small stream of morphine running down her neck. My Grandfather kept wiping it up. But every few hours, he administered the morphine to her directly through a syringe shot into her mouth. Apparently, this was what she wanted. She and my Grandfather “Tuffy” had worked this out before. I talked about it with my Mom. Apparently, three weeks ago, my Grandma was told her kidneys were failing and she was having organ failure. She decided at that point, along with her husband Tuffy, to not be put onto life support and just go peacefully at home. Apparently, there was no real clean way out of it all and she was going to end up on life supportm which is not what she wanted. Being a woman who ran beauty shops her whole life and always liked to be dressed well and put together, I know she did not want to just sit there and rot on life support, looking like a stick figure grasping for life. She wanted to go classy, at home, with her man, where she felt comfortable, and I don’t blame her one bit.
My Sis arrived the next day and we took her over. The next day, she decided to ‘spend the night’ there and keep an eye on Nannie, while our exhausted Grandfather Tuffy could rest properly. (His nieces had been stopping by to pick up the slack over the last few weeks, so my Sis wanted to be there to support him in any way she could.) Last Wednesday night, I dropped my Sis off at my grandparents’ house, and while driving up to their place (in a gated retirement community of homes), I commented that it was odd that the kitchen lights were on at our grandparents’ place, since it was pretty late at that point (7 or 8 pm, and it was pitch black out already.) I dropped her off and went on to meet a friend for coffee. About halfway there, my Sis called me frantically and asked me to turn around and come back. My heart skipped a beat.
“What’s wrong?,” I asked. “Did Nannie pass?” “Yeah…,” she responded, sniffing her tears back.
The ride back, I felt panic, and relief, all at once. As well as sadness. I was sad my Nannie had left, but felt reassured she had lived a good long life full of love and amazing moments, and I was also sad she was leaving us on this plane. I was sad for those she left behind.. her husband (my grandfather), my Mom, my Mom’s sisters and brother and all the grandkids (like me) and other great-grandkids’ lives she had touched over the years. There was nothing my Nannie hadn’t touched and enlightened in some way.
My Sis Nickie called me again to change course and go pick up Mom instead a couple of cities over (where we were actually staying.) “She needs to be here…” (I agreed.) So I went to pick up Mom. Sped all the way there. With her in the car, I held her hand and told her how sorry I was and that I loved her. Mom seemed stoic and unmoved; silent. I tried to offer her more words of reassurance but I felt she, like me, was relieved that Nannie didn’t have to sit there anymore, constantly asleep, with morphine dripping out of her mouth, starving for the past 2 weeks, at least.
“She’s in a much better place. She lived a long life. I’m relieved but sad,” I told my Mom. “I’m so glad I decided to come home a few days early than I intended.”
So was she.
I’m so glad I got to be there for my Grandma, before and after her death.
I kissed her face as she laid there, already gone from this plane. My aunt Jill and sister Nickie and a few cousins wept openly and silently, and I hugged everyone again before saying more private words to my Nanny as I kissed her a few more times and hugged her. I grabbed her hand and told her she was an angel now and that her spirit could be free.
In my mind, I imagined my Nannie flying up into the air, entering heaven’s pearly white gates, and smiling as her two sisters who died of cancer years ago embraced her with their all-encompassing light.
“Nannie.. I just want you to know.. how much you are loved and we will keep your memory alive. We will cook your delicious recipes (thanks for the cookbook a few years ago, by the way.) I’m so thankful you were my Grandma and I know you loved us so much. We love you so much, too, and you will always live on in our hearts. I love you.”
The room around me was silent and my grandfather wept as my Sister Nickie held him.
My Sister Nickie sat with my Grandfather Tuffy that night and slept over, going through photo albums and keeping his mind at peace. Hours later, they came and took Nannie’s body away.
The next day was Thanksgiving.
One thing I learned this year, as I have learned a few times in life before, as well, is to hold your loved ones close. Be there for them, through thick and through thin. Visit your family as often as you can, no matter how much you have to spend or whatever time you have to put away to go. Spending time with loved ones create even more memories, and leave you with no regrets after they’ve gone to the other side. Having a belief in the afterlife helps, too, and living your life from a loving place.
I’ll miss you, Nannie. You inspired me so much. I thank God daily now that you were my Grandma.
(The picture above is of me & my Nanny sometime around 1980.)