Today over lunch, I and 6 others went to visit Grandma.
She was in her room, looking better physically today than yesterday. When I walked in, I said brightly, “Hi Grandma!” She took my hand warmly, and said to me, “Now I don’t think we’ve met. Who are you?”
I knew that moment would happen someday, but still was surprised when it happened.
Mom told her that we were there to tell her we love her. Grandma counted out the seven of us, and said, “All these wonderful people here to tell that to ME?” That’s Grandma still there!
It was a difficult moment. Many of us were tearful, and Grandma was sick enough that she sometimes lost the battle to stay awake. But we were all glad it was happening.
Mom thought it right (me too) that she should tell Grandma about the latest word from the doctors. The conversation went, in part, something like this, with my mom addressing her mother:
My Mom: “Mom, the doctors say your heart is probably wearing out.”
My Grandma: *shrug* “Yeah.”
My Mom: “And your body is probably tiring out too.”
My Gramdma: “Yes it is. I’m 94.”
It’s not that Grandma was depressed or anything. Just that she had long ago been at peace with the idea of death, and actually told us more than once that the was rather surprised that she has lived to be as old as she has. So it wasn’t frightening or surprising to her to confront her own mortality. To her, it was a fact, and an obvious one at that.
My brother brought along Grandma’s old Bible. She had given it to him a few years ago. It was filled with highlights and handwritten notes from cover to cover. She had carefully analyzed it, and when she bought a new Bible, had carefully copied the notes to it. My brother read to her two passages that she had highlighted:Psalm 23: (which she has noted as “a favorite of many Christians”) and Numbers 6:24-26. He then held her hand and said a prayer with her. Then he said a blessing for her, and as he was getting to the end, she interrupted, saying the last word for him: “forever!”
She still had her sense of humor, and made us all laugh several times. She said, as she always has when any of us stop by to visit, how happy she is that we came by, and what a wonderful family she has. She said several times “Danke schön, Danke schön, Danke schön!” (Thank you, thank you, thank you! — she had made sure to teach a few German words to all of us as kids.)
When it was time to go, she got lots of hugs from us, and made a point to tell each of us individually “thank you for coming!”
As we walked down the hall, I was reminded of her old tradition going back many years. Whenever we would leave her house, she’d wave to us from the porch. And, if it was dark, we’d turn on the car light and wave back. Since she’s been in the nursing home, she’ll wave to us from her doorway as we walk down the hall.
And, sure enough, today’s visit ended with her waving to us from her doorway with both hands (as she always does) and a big smile. We all waved back with a smile as we walked away, too.
I don’t know if this will be the last goodbye with her, but if it is, I can’t think of a better one.