My grandmother's body is slowly shutting itself down. After almost 97 years (her birthday is May 5th), her human body has run out and she is preparing herself for her heavenly home.
I've known this day was coming for a long time. When my grandfather died, almost 15 years ago, I would not have given her 4 years.
Hospice is coming this week to help her in this transition from earth to heaven. They will make sure she is comfortable. She is ready to go, but it's still sad. It’s sad to see that the end of her life is coming not in an instant of sleep, but as the result of pneumonia and heart and kidney failure.In a way, it's a gift, this process of dying.
When I visited her earlier this week at the hospital, she was confused, agitated and disoriented. She wanted to go back to the nursing home, couldn't figure out why the Dr. never came to visit (her partner had), and why she was wearing some old ugly dress (hospital gown). It was hard to see her this way.
By Friday, it all changed. Her mind, while still confused, is now more focused on saying goodbye. She must have told me 30 times how much she loved me, how wonderful I was, what a wonderful husband and family I had, and how much my grandfather adored me. In my heart, I knew she was saying her goodbyes.
When my dad called Friday afternoon to say that this was the time to call Hospice, I was not surprised. Friday morning's visit was my gift. I had sat and held her hand, kissed her forehead and told her all about how much I loved being the only granddaughter, how I loved visiting her on the green front porch, how those afternoon naps and coffee afterward are memories stored in my heart forever.
Yesterday, I took the three kids to see Grammy, so we could say goodbye. They have been blessed not to experience death up close in their short lives. No one in our immediate or extended family has died that they knew. This is their first glimpse at saying goodbye with hope.
I told them that it was time for Grammy to go to heaven. She would see her husband and Jesus and have a body that was whole and healthy. I said I thought Grandpa Oink (my nephew's name for my grandfather) was waiting for her. He probably wondered what had taken her so long.
There were tears. A was nervous and scared and sad. She doesn't like to see people hurting or sick. M had sobs and tears rolling down her face all morning in anticipation. C was crying as he held Grammy's hand. We told her how much we loved her. She poured out blessing upon blessing to my kids: how adorable they are, how much they are growing, how smart and loved they are, and what wonderful kids they are becoming. She told C congratulations on his Eagle Scout quest. That's “the best” she said. She told M how beautiful she is becoming, no longer a little girl.
A and I stood outside for awhile and talked about how we should not be sad for Grammy. We should be happy. She's finally going home to heaven. It's a joyful time, not scary. She had asked earlier in the day that believing in Jesus means you die? No, I had told her believing in Jesus means that when you die, you get to live again in Heaven.
Death is not easy whenever it happens. At 97* she's lived a full life and has seen her sons grown with families of their own. But it's still sad to say goodbye for now.
In a way, it's a blessing that my children get to walk through the valley of death with a loved one who has experienced so much of life. I can share the reality of death without as much pain for them. I don't have to shelter them from death. There is no trauma and no fear with Grammy. It's just time for her to go to her heavenly home. That gives us all hope.
On the way home from the hospital we talked about Heaven and what Grammy will be doing there soon. I'm thinking that Grandpa Oink is waiting to play a round of golf with her. He'll probably still be hitting her tee shots so she only has to play the fairway.
John 5:24 (New International Version)24"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.