They say ignorance is bliss and to some degree I believe that is true. It was a Wednesday morning when my phone rang and I heard my mom's voice on the other end of the line. When she said my name, I knew something was wrong. My mother rarely calls me by my name preferring to use some form of affection instead. When I woke up that morning, I was ignorant to the fact, that one phone call was going to change everything. "I think your grandmother has had a stroke". Ignorant...that in a little over fifteen hours our lives would change forever.
My grandmother was a survivor. Cancer, strokes, heart attacks, triple bypass heart surgery, pacemaker,dementia, broken hip, internal bleeding...survivor. She lost the love of her life, buried two children and a grandchild...she was a survivor. There was always one more miracle and just when you didn't know if she could take anymore she would pat your hand and say "Don't worry about me baby, I'll be alright. I might give out, but I don't give up." She was a survivor.
I saw her in the hospital that day before they put her in a regular room. She was getting a regular room so that meant it was going to be alright. I held her hand and told her I loved her while fighting an internal battle to hold it together. She looked so tired...but she was getting a regular room. I went back to work, and then headed up to the hospital after work. My boss asked how she was, friends sent text messages. It didn't look good, but this was grandma. When the eleventh hour was the darkest, her miracle came at 10:30.
My family has always been amazing in a crisis. We pull together, past differences set aside, and we rally around each other. Nobody cries alone and if you need a hug, you are surrounded by open arms. My mom, uncle, sister, two cousins, one cousin's youngest son, another cousin's wife and me found ourselves in the cafeteria. I staked claim on our regular booth. How sad is it that we have a booth? We have gathered in that corner often enough that they should put a sign above it with our names. We have shared many laughs in that booth because in our family sometimes it is how we deal with stressful situations. We trekked back up to Grandma's room. Yes there was a lot of us but this was grandma so of course her entourage was in full force. A plan was made and since it was getting late and I had to work the next day, hugs were given, and I love you's said. I patted grandma's hand and told her I loved her and I would see her the next morning. She hadn't recovered her ability to speak since she had the stroke that morning.
When I got home, my husband Mark asked me how grandma was. I told him the one thing I didn't want to admit to anyone else. Every time grandma had been in the hospital and I sat by her side just before I would leave, I would ask her if she was alright. My face etched with worry and without fail she would take my hand in hers and pat it then she would say "Don't worry about me baby, I'll be alright". The tears rolled down my face as I told Mark that this time...grandma didn't say it.
I got settled in and when I hadn't heard anything by a little after nine I decided to take the medicine I had been prescribed for injuries I sustained in a car wreck two weeks prior. The phone rang around 10:40 and it was my cousin's wife. She asked me if I could come back up to the hospital. Nothing brings you out of a drugged induced sleep like that kind of a phone call. I jumped up grabbed clothes sent a text to a friend, and told Mark I would let him know I made it to the hospital. Charli was sleeping and he couldn't leave her. My dear friend who wasn't feeling well called me and talked to me while I made the 20 minute drive to the hospital, so I wouldn't be alone. I hung up the phone when I pulled into the parking lot. My youngest cousin Michael (who is more like my little brother) and my sister were walking toward my car. My sister didn't say anything, but Michael just shook his head ever so slightly and opened his arms. He wrapped them around me and I fell apart.
Our grandmother was never that grandparent who we only saw once a year and knitted us horrible sweaters. She was such an interictal part of our lives not only as children but as adults as well. She was 87 years old, she lived a full life, she loved well and was well loved. It is unsettling to be in a world where she isn't.
I am no longer ignorant to the amount of emotional strength it takes to pack up a house that once held love so thick it was a presence in itself. If those walls could talk, they would tell the stories of giggling grandchildren, chili seasoned with cinnamon, a huge bug with stalking abilities and of our own super hero...Grandpa the Slayer of Retracting Couches. They would tell the tales of battles fought on knees that were bent in prayer, tears that were shed and laughs that were shared. I feel as though those walls mock me now. The house feels empty without grandma and grandpa to fill it. The nails where pictures used to hang are bare. I think that is one of the hardest things for me. I am beyond grateful for the blessing of two amazing grandparents, who loved us with all that they were. I am thankful for the prayers that were prayed over our lives. We are all struggling and still find it hard to believe that in a few short days grandma will be gone for a month. It is a constant battle as we empty out the house, we don't let the empty swallow us. I know she continues to live in us and through our stories and all her little Grandma-isms. She touched so many lives and not just ours. The world is a better place because she was a part of it. I am certain there are many jewels in her crown. As grandma would say "Lord bless you".