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My grandmother had been depressed for exactly two years – the entire two years that had passed since her daughter (and my mother) had been found dead in her apartment. I remember the look of shock on her face when I had to break the news to her; it was as if I had told her that aliens had begun taking over the planet. She said it was unnatural – a child dying before a parent – it wasn't the way things were supposed to be. She was right, it was unnatural. Sometimes tragedy strikes unexpectedly and it seems impossible to make any sense of it through the fog of grief. She was never the same after that conversation.


She stopped making her daily trips to the store and weekly appointments to have her hair curled. She stopped painting her nails and chatting with her friends on the phone. She was a ghost of the woman she once was; her body was physically present but her soul was broken. The holidays, which had always been happy occasions for the three of us, took on a melancholy tone once only the pair of us remained. I tried hard to make up for the loss of my mother – learning to prepare Thanksgiving dinner and making sure I chose the perfect Christmas tree and decorated it to her liking. My attempts were futile, though. I could never fill my mother’s shoes.


When I realized she hadn’t been to the doctor since my mother’s death, it occurred to me that I needed to pay much closer attention to ensure she was taken care of properly. I immediately made an appointment for her to get a check-up and informed her that I would be driving her there myself to make sure she didn’t miss it. The morning I arrived at her apartment to pick her up for her doctor appointment, I found her in her underwear on the floor. I had no idea how long she had been lying there helplessly. From that day forward, she was in and out of hospitals – intensive care units, and even a hospice facility – until the doctors finally let me take her home to live out her final days in familiar comfort. But she was the only family I had left in Miami and I wasn’t ready to let her go.


"Is there nothing that can be done, Dr. Evans?" I asked, for purely selfish reasons. He dropped his head ever so slightly, placed a hand on my shoulder, and replied, "I'm sorry, sweetheart. Her systems have already begun to fail. The process is irreversible. I'm afraid there's nothing more that can be done other than making her comfortable." I nodded, thanked the doctor, and wandered further down the hall where there was less foot traffic. I found a seat on an abandoned stretcher that had been shoved up against a wall haphazardly. I lay on my side, curled up in the fetal position, and cried until I ran out of tears.

She lived over an hour’s drive away from my apartment – a trip I made frequently – and refused to move in with me or allow me to move her closer. I didn’t push the issue, because her independence was the one thing she had left. Being an independent woman myself, I understood because I wouldn’t want mine taken from me. So I made the drive as often as humanly possible. I hired full-time nurses to make sure she had help for any amount of time I wasn’t able to be there myself. It was probably the most exhausting four months of both of our lives.


She told everyone at the hospitals that she was ready to die. It always caught them off guard; you could see the slightly horrified expression on their faces before they realized I was watching. “Not many people face death so gracefully,” said one of the nurses. Tiffany, I believe that was her name. I turned in my chair at my grandmother’s bedside to face Tiffany. “Gracefully? She is not facing death gracefully. She’s calling for it, and I wish she’d stop.” Tiffany looked embarrassed and hurried out of the room. But, really, I should have been the one who was embarrassed for placing my own feelings in front of my grandmother’s wishes.


Finally, she asked that I sign a paper providing my agreement to abide by a DNR order. “If I go, I don’t want you to encourage them to try to save me. I don’t want to be kept alive by machines. I have lived my life, Melissa. I have extracted every ounce of joy that I possibly could out of every single day. My joy is gone now. Please, let me go with her.” My eyes welling up with tears, I reluctantly agreed to respect her wishes.


Despite my selfish worries about what I would do once she was gone or how I would cope with being left alone, I respected her wishes from that day forward. I simply made sure that she knew, without a doubt, how much I loved her and would miss her when she was gone. I sat by her bed endless nights, watching her with bated breath, and hoping for just one more day with her.


You know when the end is close because their coloring changes. Their breathing changes, too. Sometimes they rally – or exhibit a small burst of energy – before they finally take their last breath. She had turned a pale gray color and her breathing had become very shallow. I stroked her hair away from her forehead and kissed her gently. I leaned forward and whispered in her ear, “I hope you are able to find your joy in abundance for lifetimes to come; that’s the only way I can accept your decision to let go of this one. I love you and I’ll miss you everyday.” And then she was gone.

I just hope she found her joy.

*Entry written for [info]therealljidol.


( 48 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
Jan. 16th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
It wasn't easy, but we all do what we have to do when we have to do it. I think people frequently surprise themselves with how strong they can be when they have to be. Thank you for reading and commenting.
Jan. 16th, 2011 04:43 am (UTC)
Beautifully written. I could feel your love through your words!
Jan. 16th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
Jerry, I adore you. I think I might just keep you around!
(no subject) - greathall - Jan. 16th, 2011 04:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 16th, 2011 04:53 am (UTC)
Jan. 16th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)
Jan. 16th, 2011 10:30 am (UTC)
My FIL has never really recovered from the death of his oldest son and we're now facing the same thing. He's got Parkinson's and senile dementia and really doesn't want to be here in any more. It's so, so sad to watch.
Jan. 16th, 2011 03:53 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry to know you're having to go through that. -hugs-
Jan. 16th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
My heart goes out to you.
Jan. 16th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
I appreciate that. Thank you for reading and commenting.
Jan. 16th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)
Your grandmother was lucky to have you as her granddaughter. You write beautifully and this wais a heart-breaking story; I am moved to tears.

The one thing you don't talk about here is how you dealt with your mother's death. I can only imagine how hard it would be to deal with your own feelings and care for your grandmother at the same time.

Jan. 16th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't know about lucky, I caused her plenty of grief. lol But thank you for saying so, and thank you for reading and commenting on the entry.

Yes, it was a difficult time in my life without a doubt. I had to become very responsible in a relatively short period of time. I considered using this topic to discuss my mother's death, but since I can pretty much tie her death to everything in my life - I wanted to wait for the right time. I feel like I'll know when it's right.
Jan. 16th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Your entry is heartfelt and lovely. Thank you for writing it.
Jan. 16th, 2011 11:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading it and commenting. :)
Jan. 16th, 2011 09:49 pm (UTC)
This entry hit me hard. Having struggled with both depression and the loss of my own grandmother, I know all of those feelings well. You are a strong person for being with her and respecting her wishes. Very touching entry.
Jan. 16th, 2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
Why, thank you. The compliment means even more coming from someone who seems pretty strong themselves. I'm glad you enjoyed the entry.
Jan. 17th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
This was incredibly poignant. It's so hard to let go of those we love, even when we know it's what they want, or what is best for them. It sounds like respecting her wishes was a difficult thing for you to do, but it was quite courageous. Too often, we put our feelings before those of others, just because we can.
Jan. 17th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, doll. It is definitely hard, but when you really love someone, you just have to consider their wishes. I appreciate your feedback. <3
Jan. 17th, 2011 06:21 am (UTC)
Your grandmother sounds very special. I can't imagine losing a child. I always hope, hope hope that all 3 of my kids will outlive me.

My grandparents both...I mean, they are in their late 80s but..it is SO hard as they speak of wanting to die. I understand their longing but yes...even with all...I just don't want to let go.

I'm going to have to but I don't want to. Grandma is losing weight at an alarming rate and Grandpa's Parkinson's is getting worse and worse.

They are well-cared for and visited often but...they just want...an ending.

I'm very sad about both your losses. That is so much to...it's too much.

Jan. 18th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
It really is out of the "natural order" of things when a child predeceases a parent. I would never wish that on anyone.

You'd be surprised what we are capable of doing when we are faced with things we didn't think we'd be able to handle. You, especially, are someone who has faced enough to know the truth in that.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

-hugs back-
Jan. 17th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
That near on made me cry. <3
Jan. 18th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
Oh, I never want anyone to cry!
But I am glad that it was emotionally moving. Thank you.
Jan. 17th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
Omg so beautifully tragic. This should be published somewhere.
Jan. 18th, 2011 01:15 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. <3
Jan. 18th, 2011 01:32 am (UTC)
A lovely emotional piece. Very well done.
Jan. 18th, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
Thank you, I'm glad you liked it.
Jan. 19th, 2011 02:28 am (UTC)
What a beautiful yet heartbreaking piece...
Jan. 19th, 2011 05:02 am (UTC)
Thank you, doll. :)
Jan. 19th, 2011 04:06 am (UTC)
Made me weep on a variety of levels.

Thank you for writing, and writing well.
Jan. 19th, 2011 05:03 am (UTC)
Though I'm not a fan of making people weep, you're welcome?
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