Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Circle

It wasn't long after I wrote this post about my grandma's 92nd birthday that she started experiencing shortness of breath. In early November, she was admitted to hospital, and we all expected that she'd soon be up and at 'em again. She's always been highly energetic, active in the church and community, a card shark, and the person who lights up a room she enters.

We visited with the kids, and that brightened Grandma's day. We're a family of women that are comfortable with life's natural processes; my mother retired from 35+ years of nursing, my sister is a doula, and we've all given birth at home. We're not easily grossed out by illness and what comes with it. I want my children to feel comfortable with the idea of people aging, and explained to them that GG's body was tired because it had been alive for so long! They in turn felt quite at home during our visit to the hospital.
Margot helps herself to GG's lunch.

Violet was curious about all the equipment in the room.

Grandma blossomed under the sunny attention of her great-grandchildren.

After a few weeks, Grandma's health started to slip. She lost her appetite, and began to lose weight. It soon became clear that she might not get better, and her family of 3 surviving children and 3 children-in-law, 16 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren (not to mention the many nieces, nephews, and other relatives that joyfully call her "Auntie Pearl") would have to come to terms with saying goodbye to this marvellous person.

On Christmas morning, my mother woke up with a notion: she would bring Grandma home. Dad quickly agreed, and the wheels were set in motion.

On Boxing Day, my husband and brothers-in-law carried Grandma's stretcher up onto the porch, and into mom and dad's house, to the sunroom that had been transformed into a palliative care room. The bed was made up in cozy flannels, with my grandpa's favourite afghan draped across the foot. All the cards and letters she has received have been taped all around the room. Soft Celtic music plays, and Grandma is surrounded by the sight of the sky, and mom's garden in winter.

Most of all, she is surrounded by those that cherish her. On the day she arrived, a few of her great-grandchildren were present; all kissed and hugged and welcomed her. My niece even climbed up on the bed with her, and spent a peaceful while wrapped in those old arms. When my husband came to kiss her, I asked her if she knew who he was; she gave me a mock stern look, and replied, "My boyfriend!"

My mother is a caregiver extraordinaire. This evening I popped in to help mom shift Grandma on the bed to make her more comfortable, and mom performed those care-giving tasks that prove her worth as a nurse, and a daughter-in-law. Grandma looked into my mom's eyes with so much love and gratitude. They met when my mom was 12 years old, and had a crush on my dad.

The beauty of life's circle is with me as I write. I shed tears when I think of life without my dear Grandma, that indomitable woman with her irrepressible sense of humour, her love of cards and food and good company, her sharp wit and keen mind. But the peace I feel to see her in the care of family outweighs any grief I may feel, and I whisper a prayer that I might someday be so blessed.

18 comments:

  1. Your family has given your Grandma the most precious, precious Christmas gift. You have me crying now Stephanie both tears of sadness for your family and of remembering my own Nana and tears from being so moved from such a beautiful story filled with love and care. I appreciate what you wrote about not shying away from life and sharing this with you children, I agree. Wishing all of you peace and love xo

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  2. We were privileged to care for my husband's mother in our home and it created beautiful memories that are with us even today, 10 years later.

    This is such a beautiful post full of love for your dear grandmother.

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  3. Yes, it is a privilege to be raised as we were......being sent out as children by mom with food in hand to take to a neighbour's home where someone was sick or dying. Being taken to the funeral home for wakes followed by a trip to the church to sing at the funeral of someone who perhaps didn't have a lot of family. Phone calls in the night to our mother who was a well known nurse in the community who others could call on for advice and reassurance when their loved ones were ill. For myself, the privilege of assisting the newest souls into the world by helping their mothers (and fathers) through labour 100+ times. And now, to witness the inevitable ending of a most well-lived life.

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  4. Whew, that brought back some sad and happy memories and few tears. Good on your mom for bringing your grandmother home.

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  5. Oh my, now I have tears rolling down my cheeks! What a beautiful post!

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  6. The Circle of Life is amazing. My Grandmother passed two months before turning 101. Her journey was our journey. Your words are so full of emotion and love and that is really what it is all about. I was a certified doula at one time but as the years go by I find myself more inclined to support the dying as they go on to be reborn.
    May you all find moments of peace during this time~

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  7. I am a contradiction in the nursing world. I help bring babies into the world and I care for the sick leaving this world. My heart is torn in both directions. But, I truly believe that I can do both, because when a soul goes home, the angels ring a bell, and somewhere a baby is born.

    How lovely that you brought her into the arms of your family, to spend her last days with the ones that she loves is precious.

    xoxoxo

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  8. My, what a beautiful post...would that all people should come to the end of their days as cared for and cherished as your grandmother.

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  9. Laughing tears we call that..... they're beautiful aren't they? I am so happy to see a family that embraces aging and death so fully. It is certainly a gift to your elders and an example to your children. Wishing you peace & blessings.

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  10. That's wonderful that your Grandma will die surrounded by such beauty and so many loved ones. There was a fantastic interview with a 96-year-old woman on Ontario Today (cbc radio) today, and it made me grateful for the wisdom of our elderly. Light and love to your Grandma and family.

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  11. Doesn't come as any surprise that your Mom would take Gramma Home to die! Donna would make sure that Gramma's hair was nicely combed, I'm sure she would have on a pretty bedjacket, and that when she is washing that beautiful face it would be with warm water!

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  12. What a beautiful tribute ... to your grandma, your loving family, and to life. Thank you for sharing this lovely post with us.

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  13. Your children are blessed to be part of this awesome mystery of life and death. As are you.

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  14. What a beautiful legacy she has created ~ so much love, gentleness and compassion. I send you and your family peace in these changing times of letting go. xo

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  15. Love, light, and gentle hugs to you all.

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  16. Beautiful, just beautiful! You are truely blessed!

    ~Samantha

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  17. I saw your Gran's obit. in the newspaper today. May she have as much peace and love in the great hereafter as she did in life.
    Karen

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  18. This is a really beautiful story - thanks for sharing. Your Grandma - her love of cards, food and company makes me think so much of my Oma who died just before her 96th birthday last summer. Her presence was so strong while she lived that she is still ever present in our lives. How lucky we are to have these women to learn from!

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