Loss doesn’t become less painful

Posted by on May 25, 2011 at 10:09 pm.

Twenty-four days have passed since I had my last conversation with my grandmother.

Like so many final conversations in the world, this one took place in a hospital room. The image will never escape me. An oxygen mask swallowing most of her face. Machines on wheels towering over her bed. Her matted hair carefully brushed away from her face. Her tired eyes.

She kept telling me how proud she was of me. The hospital wouldn’t let me bring flowers into ICU, so I showed her a photo on my phone. I stayed beside her while she rested.

That was May 1. I escaped work for the weekend because my mother organized a family reunion for that very day. But grandma stopped breathing momentarily two days earlier. She had been feeling ill for a few days, but no one realized she felt quite so bad. She was rushed to the hospital, where we learned that a part of her lung collapsed.

I rushed to Illinois. Grandma had been so much more than a grandma. I’ve spent hours trying to write words that I consider acceptable to describe just how important she was to me. I can’t find them.

So when I arrived to the hospital, my world shattered. She couldn’t speak. Her eyes were closed. She could only barely draw air. I thought it was over.

But she battled. When I visited her the next day, she could talk to me. She held my hand as I struggled not to cry and her eyes stayed dry while mine were full of tears. We shared the next two days as I lived in the waiting room and hoped for the best.

Then, at about 1 a.m. on Monday morning, I kissed her forehead, told her how much I loved her, and headed back to work in St. Louis. I’d be back as soon as she needed me, I said.

The next week was difficult. I shot a video for work. I trained users how to operate my work’s website. I listened to my company’s management during required conference calls. But I’ll admit I didn’t care about any of that; I left my devotion in Illinois.

While driving home from a meeting with my boss—just nine days after I held that conversation with grandma—I received a phone call from my mom. Grandma wasn’t doing well. The doctors couldn’t do anything else. It was time to make her feel comfortable.

The next 60 hours were brutal. I stayed next to grandma in the hospital and waited for her to die. I didn’t know how it would happen, but I knew I didn’t want her to be alone when it did.

And I held her hand when she took her final breath.

I’ve never had to experience loss like this before. It’s supposed to get easier, eventually, but I seem to miss her more with each passing day.

One Comment

  • Patty Martin says:

    I know Grandma was comforted by the fact you were there. She may not have been able to speak or really be aware of anything but I choose to believe she felt our presence there and that brought her some peace. I’m very proud of you for being so strong during that time as I know how hard it was for you. I know (and I hope you do too) how very proud she was of you and how much she loved you!!

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