Today

This morning started with a call from my mom. She was calling to let us know that my grandmother had apparently taken a turn for the worse, and we didn’t know how much time was left.

Terah, Jacob, and I got dressed and went to the hospital to visit. Grandma had been in a partial coma that left her able to hear, nod, and hold hands, but unable to speak. Apparently she came out of it overnight, and was talking and even singing with my mom and aunt some. She seemed happy, loved to hear the old German prayers she grew up with. She said some memorable things I’ll have to write about later too.

By the time we got there, she wasn’t that active anymore, and was about like she was yesterday. She could see us, and give our hands a squeeze, maybe nod occasionally. She drifted asleep often. One time when I saw she was awake with her eyes open, I lifted up Jacob to where she could see him. Immediately her face brightened, and I saw the biggest smile on her face that I’d seen in days! She smiled and waved to him, and with a small bit of coaxing, he waved back. Then she wiggled her foot, and when Jacob noticed, he wiggled his foot back at her. He’s 92 years younger than her, and they still managed to communicate just fine.

Grandma held my hand for awhile this morning; she loves to have a hand or two to hold. My cousin showed up for a visit, and I was going to get up to let her sit down, and when grandma felt my hand leaving, she grabbed on tighter. I went around to the other side of the bed and held the other hand.

In the last couple of days, grandma’s hearing has become much sharper than before, and I’m pretty sure her memory has too.

When it was time for us to leave and go to church, I was holding her hand, looking into her eyes, saying goodbye, and how much I loved her. I got a hand squeeze, and saw a few tears at her eyes — the first I can remember seeing that. As I pulled my hand away to leave, she once again grabbed tighter and was still looking at me. I think she thought this was the last time she’d see me, and didn’t want the moment to pass too quickly. But that also guaranteed that I’d be back in the afternoon.

It was Palm Sunday in church today, and as every year, the Palm Sunday celebration ends with Bill singing I walked today where Jesus walked while Dale carries in a heavy cross. Right when Bill is singing “I climbed the hill on Calvary, where on the cross He died!”, Dale is climbing the steps to the stage and laying the cross there. Hardly a dry eye in the room at that.

For lunch, my parents were still hosting their monthly college student get-together/home cooking event — which we usually attend too. After that, I dropped off Terah and Jacob at home, and went back to the hospital.

By the time I had left, grandma had 27 visitors just today. When I arrived, my great uncle (her brother) and aunt were there, along with her pastor and a deacon from her church, plus my mom and my aunt. More people came and went throughout the afternoon, and I enjoyed visiting and hearing stories about the family and grandma all afternoon. She was sometimes awake and able to look at people, and sometimes deeply asleep. I heard her say “God bless you” to several people.

It was awhile before I had a chance to go be with her, and when I did, she was asleep, so I sat beside her bed and held her hand for quite awhile, maybe an hour, while visiting with family in the room. At one point, a nurse came in to give her some more morphine by IV. I got up to get our of her way, but the nurse said, “Don’t think of it; I can work around you, and what you’re doing is more important than what I’m doing anyway.”

Some of her old friends from church came by, and prayed with her in German, and recited the words to some German hymns and poems, which I think she really enjoyed. Her eyes were closed through most of it, but when they got to the end of each item, they opened, saying thank you, I believe.

Eventually things calmed down, and it was time for me to head home. Grandma was awake by then, and I looked at her and said goodbye, and that I was glad I got to see her again. We gave each other a final hand squeeze, and then she let go of my hand this time. I’m glad I came back for sure.

They say sometimes that people that are dying feel like they need permission to die, before they will let themselves go. I wondered if grandma was feeling that way today. But then I hear that my uncle, who is driving in from 8 hours away through wintry weather, called and ask that she be given this message: “Tell mom that I’m coming, but if Jesus gets there first, she should go with him.” That might not work on everybody, but for her, it’s the best way I could think of to give her permission.

3 thoughts on “Today

  1. “Tell mom that I’m coming, but if Jesus gets there first, she should go with him.”

    Such a beautiful and concise turn of phrase. I’m not ashamed to say that tears came to my eyes when I read that. My very best to you, John, and thank you for sharing these stories with us.

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  2. Hey John,

    You know that even without ever meeting you, you’re among people I’d really enjoy to mmet with and this post is definitely one that comforts me in that opinion.

    We don’t share beliefs in religion but I really admire how your own beliefs are positive. That’s exactly the side of my stepmother which I admired until she passed two years ago and it seems that your gran’ma could share many things with my step mother (whose sister is living “not that far” from you, at least in the same US state..:-)

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  3. > Then she wiggled her foot, and when Jacob noticed, he wiggled his foot back at her. He’s 92 years younger than her, and they still managed to communicate just fine.

    That’s a beautiful image; thank you.

    Your grandmother and her loved ones are very lucky to be getting these clear opportunities to connect with one another before the end. That’s something to be glad of, and thank you for sharing it with the world.

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