Much has happened since arriving in Detroit almost one week ago. The feelings of happiness, sadness, and joy were all waiting for me as I touched down late Tuesday night. I thought I was prepared for the emotions that were soon to follow. But soon after arriving at her bedside, I came to the realization that I was not nearly as prepared for my Grandma’s passing as I had anticipated.
After leaving the funeral home tonight following her service, I took the remaining flowers to the hospice where my grandmother had spent the last month of her life. I wanted to know so much. The funeral service had met my expectations but I felt there was more to be revealed. I decided to spend a few minutes with one of Grandma’s friends across the hall. The timing could not have been more perfect as she was eating dinner in the common area. I began to ask her about Grandma. I asked her if she could share any stories. I even asked her what best described Grandma in the short time she knew her.
I resisted the urge of having good manners and sat right down beside Ms. Mary. A short exchange of words turned into a full conversation and few minutes soon turned into almost an hour of listening to what this woman had known of Grandma. And the next thing you know, nurses and medical assistants began gathering around the dinner table sharing stories, telling me about Grandma and what she meant to them. The idea that she had impacted lives even into the most trying time in her life had blown my mind.
Mary shared a specific story and said from that point on, as she said it, “We became instant friends.” And without stalling or any hesitation, she described her as “conscientious”. Before I could turn around in time, the nurse spoke of structure and confidence in everything about Grandma. In pain and suffering, Grandma still showed true to whom she was and demonstrated strength enough to make a strong impression on these hospice care providers. I was in awe.
Over the last few days leading up to her passing, I have found myself writing about stories, emotions and other memories at her bedside. I may feel led to share these over time and I may keep them close, but regardless, what I know is that I wanted to know everything I could leading up to this most defining moment in her life. She had shared so experienced so much in 82 years but I wanted to capture her lasting days because I truly felt there was something to take away to learn.
Many look at death as a somber experience. And I would be lying if I said it was not painful or a sad time for me or the rest of my family, but what I most remember her for is not the pain and suffering but for what she meant to others and how she influenced others even into the toughest days of her life. And tonight I learned this firsthand.
Talking with Mary meant closure. It allowed me to have experienced the influence she had over the people that were there with her in the last few weeks of her life. That to me is powerful. I gave Mary and her nurse a hug and thanked them for all they had done to make her feel welcome because I know that is what she would have wanted.
I am moved by her drive to make such an impact on Mary, the nurses and medical assistants even though she was suffering. I assumed Mary was one of the only ones (other than family) my Grandma had confided in during her last days but I should have known better. Grandma always had more up her sleeve than we all thought. And I am honored to have had the opportunity to realize this tonight.
After her passing, I asked to be alone with Grandma. And in less than two minutes, I put my hand on hers and said, “Didn’t we have a good time?” It has been an honor to know a woman of integrity, character and most of all, strength. I will never lose the wisdom she has instilled in me. And I would not be the person I am today without her.
Thank you “Granny”. You are one crazy lady.
(Thank you all for your prayers and support. I would appreciate all comments of “thoughts and prayers” be held back for now till I see or talk to you. No hard feelings. It has just been a challenge to post this as is. Hope that’s cool.)