May 8, 2003
Took baby Charity on long drive to see Gramma in the hospital. I can’t believe she has cancer. At first it scared me because Aunt Dorothy heard she had cancer and was gone a week later. Gramma has made it past that week and has had two chemotherapy treatments. She’s made hesitant jokes about losing her hair (which hasn’t happened yet). Aunt Carol is here from Georgia and has been staying at the hospital with Gramma 24/7. Mom can’t afford to take the time off work (she’d lose her job), and I have the kids to look after.
It feels awkward. Strange to see her in a hospital bed hooked up to monitors. It’s hard to imagine her weak and in need of help. We have stilted conversation, and somehow manage to make her smile. She doesn’t have the strength to hold Charity so only coos at her from a distance. I tell her I love her when we leave. We only get to visit for about 45 minutes and have to go when Gramma gets tired.
May 9, 2003
Mom visits Gramma in the hospital and calls to ask what I think about her staying overnight at the hospital too. She needs to know how Gramma is, we both hate to leave her there even though Aunt Carol is there. And, Mom hasn’t seen Aunt Carol (her sister) in years so I tell her not to think twice. Just stay.
May 10, 2003
I don’t get to the phone in time and the answering machine picks up. It’s Aunt Carol. Mom is already on the road coming back home. The hysteria in her voice tells me everything. When I work up the nerve I call the hospital. I can’t get anyone who can tell me anything. I call Gramma’s house (my brother and Grandpa are there). It’s my brother who tells me that Gramma is gone.
I cry non-stop for hours. I should have, I could have, if only I had…..
Time becomes inconsequential for me. Things happen in a blur, everything seems to be moving by both slowly and quickly, but like it has nothing to do with me. I can’t think of anything else except I can’t call Gramma anymore.
May 11, 2003
People are around me, hustling and bustling…so busy now: things to do, more to think about, things to arrange, people to call. I gather my children around me. They hug me as I cry. They’re so little and don’t understand what’s going on. Only that Mommy is sad. In the evening I snap out of it enough to tell Mom I will go with her tomorrow to the funeral home to make arrangements. I can’t sit and do nothing.
May 12, 2003 — Mother’s Day
Today the rest of the world is celebrating their mothers, grandmothers and women in their lives…and I’m helping my mother and Aunt Carol decide on a casket. We listen to the funeral director’s gentle voice discuss procedure, insurance and other things my mind refuses to focus on. I watch him talk to the others and watch him nod and smile gently to convey his understanding of our grief and loss. I think how horrible he is because it’s all a lie. He’s never seen her before he picked up her body from the hospital.
Back at Gramma’s house mom and Aunt Carol go through Gramma’s closet to decide on an outift to bury her in. I veto things she’s never worn and things that make her look too old. We decide to bury her in her usual “going out” skirt and blouse. I ask about her pin. No one knows where it is but me. As I retrieve it I wonder why they have no clue where she kept her things. They’re her daughters. I’m the granddaughter. I find it with no problem.
The rest of the day passes in a blur of motion and darkness.
Somehow I managed to get the kids and me to the funeral home. I didn’t make it without tears and was pretty functional until the viewing was over and the funeral director told everyone to go ahead and come forward to pay our final respects. Just like in a bad movie the word “FINAL” kept echoing in my head and then I couldn’t breathe. My knees buckled and I could only think FINAL. I’ll never see her again. I’ll never talk to her again. I’ll never hear her voice. She’s going to be lying there in the dark and the cold and covered in dirt and I can’t do this. I CAN’T DO THIS.
We moved to the church, me crying non-stop. We made it through the service and rode to the cemetery. There was a small service there. And I watched them lower her into the ground and fought back the rush of panic gathering in my throat. It rained. We stood there in the rain until we got too cold. My brother waited until the bulldozer came to push the mound of dirt into the big gaping wound in the earth. He stayed to fulfill our last promise to Gramma. She was afraid she wouldn’t end up in her own grave and no one would know it wasn’t her and wouldn’t know she was lost. We stayed until he was done. Until she definitely was where she was supposed to be and wouldn’t be leaving.
At the reception afterwards, we were late. They asked where we were and we told them about Gramma’s fear. Her husband and other daughter said “I had no idea.”
How can you love someone, be with them, be near them, and “have no idea” about anything about them?
May 10, 2010
It’s a very hard day. I’ve been crying most of the day, Abby’s looking at me like she did something wrong. I hold her and cry on her, and cry because she’s so beautiful. Because she’s so pure and precious. And because Gramma will never see her either. Gramma was such a big part of my life and it’s a part of me that my baby will never know. My Gramma will never be more to her than a face in a photograph. That breaks my heart. Again. More. Still.
Am linking to a poem I wrote a couple of years ago when my heart was breaking anew over Gramma. I wish I could have said thank you. Or goodbye. I wish she could have met my guy and my babies. I wish…I wish we had more time. I wish this was something I could ever be ready for. They say time heals all wounds, or that it gets easier. It hasn’t. It’s not. I don’t know what’s wrong with me compared to the rest of the world, but it still feels like part of my life was just ripped out. There’s no healing, there’s no scarring, there’s no getting better. It’s still a humongous painful bloody open wound and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Seven years and counting.