At the end of August I put my 95-year-old Grammie on hospice. She doesn’t have a terminal illness, but she has osteoporosis so bad that her doctor thinks she has little fractures all over her body. The hospice care is for pain management.
A couple of weeks ago I went to visit her. I had no idea what to expect, but what I got was not anything I anticipated. She is so sedated that it took her over five minutes to recognize me. She is folding in on herself and living in the past. A past where Grampa is still alive. A past where she can get herself out of bed and walk to wherever it is she is wanting to go and do whatever it is she thinks needs to be done.
This is not what I wanted. I wanted a chance to curl up in bed with my now-not-in-pain but still sharp-as-a-tack Grammie. To share stories and reminisce. To talk about the future of my kids and their kids. To talk about my future without her and what that was going to be like and how I would cope. I wanted to be able to say good-bye while she was still with me.
I didn’t get that chance with Grampa. He went to the hospital for a minor procedure and they found cancer. All over his body. He was still “young” at 75. He went through one round of chemo and said, “no more.” Hospice kept him comfortable. I prayed that I would get there in time to say good-bye to the one man in my life who was a constant. Who I knew loved me unconditionally. Who listened when I talked to him. Who never lost patience or his temper with me. Who taught me to shoot a .22 and run a table saw and change the oil in my car and make caramel rolls. Who made me feel like the most important person in his life.
He died the night before I got there. I was devastated. Did he know how much I loved him? How much I was going to miss him? That there would be a Grampa-sized hole in my heart for the rest of my life?
He knew. I know because he came to me in a dream. Now, usually, I don’t go for that kind of hocus-pocus. But this was real and it was Grampa. I was at his memorial service and went up to view him in his casket. He sat up and looked at me. “I waited for you as long as I could, honey. But I know how much you love me and I love you too.” I felt peaceful for the first time since he died.
Grammie, in her confusion, didn’t understand what I was trying to say when I did say good-bye, But I have faith that, somewhere inside her heart, she knows. That she will feel that love and be at peace when she leaves this earth. And that I will have peace knowing that I had one last chance to tell her how much I love her.