My grandmother stood approximately six feet tall prior to aging taking its toll on her body. When I was a child she was a little intimidating and a very no nonsense person. She showed loved in straight-forward ways just like her personality. Her favorite way of showing she cared was through feeding you. My grandmother could cook the best chef up under the floor tiles, let alone the table. When I was in my twenties she gave me a music box that was made to hold scented body powder. It was one of my favorite things to play with on her dresser and she wanted me to enjoy it while she was alive. During her senior years when time was wearing down on her statuesque frame, she gave me her old photos. I did not want to think about a time when she wouldn’t be with me but she understood that one day she would pass on.
Two years ago, today May 23rd my grandmother breathed her last breath. She was hospitalized for a week due to pneumonia. It seemed odd to develop this condition in May a fairly warm month in South Carolina but she did. Some people believe grief is carried in the lungs and six weeks prior to my grandmothers death her only child, my mother had died. One of the hardest things, I have ever done was tell my grandmother her only child was dead. From that point on my grandmother who due to my mother’s illness was put into a nursing facility, began to shrink away.
Two days before she died my grandmother was sitting up in her hospital bed. It was as though she had never been sick. And I thought she would be discharged in a day or two. Her roaring laugh was good and strong, she didn’t need oxygen much and she was alert watching television with me. I had just seen her with my husband on Friday and she was not very responsive but on this day she was doing great. We laughed at some of the remembrances of my mom and just different things about life. She wanted me to bring some hair oil for her scalp. When I left that Saturday evening, we exchanged her favorite farewell saying, I started with “I love you a bushel and a peck” and she responded with “and a hug around the neck.”
On Sunday after church carrying flowers, hair brush, and hair oil I bounced into her room. I was greeted with doctors and nurses working on her trying to make her comfortable. They all wore a look of concern on their faces and I heard the words “she is DNR” whispered. I almost dropped the glass vase of flowers I held. When they stepped away from the bed there was a very swollen woman you was retaining excessive fluid. Literally in less than 24 hours my grandmother had turned for the worst. I left and called my husband, telling him that he needed to come today if he wanted to see her and say his good-byes. I called a few other people too. When I had gone to the cafeteria with my godmother, my grandmother seemed to come out of her semi coma. She was talking to my husband. He later advised that it was a surreal moment.
The next day I stopped by the hospital before going to work. My grandmother was sleeping soundly. I don’t recall if I kissed her but I do remember whispering “that her decision to remain here was between her and God.” My heart ached at the thought of her dying so soon after my mother’s death but the last thing I wanted was for my grandmother to continue to suffer. My intent was to print and bring back work with me in order to work offsite. Early that afternoon, I received a phone call from her doctor who really never said she had died but I knew from his tone. Some kind of way I made the one and a half hour drive. Hoping to see her before the funeral home came and took her body away, I went into the little ICU room where she lay. I removed the sheet to see that my dear grandmother was now zipped up tight. It still hurts my heart that I wasn’t there when she breathed her last breath. However, she wasn’t alone cousins were there with her as she made her transition. They reported that she was laughing and talking to ancestors welcoming her to heaven.
To Grannie With Love
Statuesque beauty you stood tall
you will forever be loved by all.
From youth you spoke with honesty
not always concerned about diplomacy.
A heart filled with adventure and determination
you traveled far and wide to many a destination.
Provided advice to nieces and nephews;
equally tried to weigh both points of view.
Always gave with a loving heart,
for whatever asked you would easily part.
Filled the bellies of family and friends;
seemed like your love would never end.
When over time, life pulled down on your bones,
you sent up silent prayers refraining from bemoans.
Your prayers answered, angels came taking you home
where now you can freely dance, jump, and roam.
Even though those left behind have broken hearts,
we try to accept it was time for you to depart.
Our love for you will never decrease,
we now rejoice because you are at peace.
by: Joyce M. Rose-Harris (c) May 2011