For the first time in my adult life, I’m on the cusp of losing a loved one. I was in my teens when my grandfather passed away and it all seemed a bit more distant than. It was a thing that happened, an acquaintance that was no longer around. It was a name that was retired from conversation. Now, as an adult with a family of my own, my grandmother is facing serious health issues and I’m trying to process and understand what it all means and what to do about it. Her life carries along memories, experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
We call her Grandma Natalie, though she’s really Great Grandma Natalie. At 88 years old, she’s still mentally sharp as a whip. She has traveled all over the world but spends summers in New York and winters in Florida. Just a few months ago, she was in St. Petersburg, Russia. But then, quickly, her health deteriorated and when my mother (her daughter) flew to be with her at the hospital, they found cancer. Lots of cancer. Cancer in her blood, her pancreas, her ovaries, and her kidneys. A host of problems was going on inside her body that no one knew anything about until just recently.
The diagnosis set off a flurry of events. Family began visiting her in the hospital in Florida. She was then flown back to New York. Options were considered all the while we wondered how much time was left. And frankly, I still do wonder. It seems the best anyone can do is guess and I think that lack of specificity has put my mind in a quandary. She may be for 6 months, 3 months, or just 1 month. I wonder if she will pass quickly or if it will be a relatively long time before she goes. At her age, it seems anything can happen, good or bad.
I’ve found myself walking down memory lane. I’ve been recalling the different experiences I’ve had with her, the experiences she’s had with my family, she things we have experienced because of her. When our first child was born, she bought us a crib, dresser, and nursing chair. We loved the set and kept it for our second child and, with our third only 3 months away, we loving having it for the one to come. Those pieces of furniture have been used just about every day for over 5 years, and will be used every day for years to come. All because she bought them for us. Those pieces hold more significance now, it seems, on her upcoming departure from this life. I wonder the appropriate time or place to move on from them when we don’t need them anymore. I can almost hear her say, “Do whatever you want with them. I just want you to be happy.” She was that kind of grandma.
My family is planning a trip to see her. Maybe see her one last time. Do we tell our kids before we go that this may be the last time they see their Great Grandma? Or do we hold back those “adult” details and let them and her just enjoy the moment without the grief or burden of the significance in our visit? Do I even bring my family or do I go solo? I’ve wondered these things and don’t have the answers. In the back of my mind I know, though, that no one has regretted seeing someone one last time before they depart. So, maybe a family thing is right after all, and I shouldn’t worry about all the little details like how to entertain a 5 and 2 year old in a house filled with fragile collectibles, what we will all eat, or where we will sleep. I’m remember that God knows we need those things, and He will provide.
I’m curious. Have you ever lost a loved one? How did you process those final days, weeks, or months? Do you have any regrets of what you wish you did during that time? Did anything help you have closure and peace about it all?
I’d love to hear your comments below.