days like fog

​I keep waiting for all this to be over. And by over I mean go back to having one of the two pillars in my life back. I’m all done now with this morbid, horrific feeling in my chest thankyouverymuch and if it’s all the same to everyone, I’d like my grandma back please and I’d like to go back to life as usual before I was emotionally strung out on the rack and left there to rot.

If I have to hear someone else say, “You have the memories” or “how wonderful that you could be there with her” one more time I might seriously set a fire and burn all stupid platitudes in effigy. Beautiful and wonderful are not words I would use to describe the memory of watching someone I love more more than anyone except maybe my mom and daughter gasp for her last breath and turn pale and cold and clammy. Yes how wonderful that is. I feel like people are talking to someone else, not me, because I feel like they are living on the moon with the crazy things they say to console me. 

I took M to school today because that was the schedule. She didn’t even complain, probably because anything is better than sitting in a house all day while mommy sorts through thousands of old photographs and cries. She put herself to bed at 8 because that’s how not present I am now apparently. We are both sleeping in the clothes we wore all day. I’m not sure if she ate dinner or if maybe the cucumber and jello cup snacks I know she had counted. Never in her short life have we sat at home all day because it always seemed to drag on and on, but now it goes by fast and I can’t imagine what else I should be doing. Hard to believe a few weeks ago I was running around to Niagara Falls and Lake Michigan like a drunken college spring breaker while my grandma languished in a nursing home. What an ass.

I suppose I’m supposed to be sleeping at this hour so let’s see if I can stomach the flashbacks long enough to get there tonight. If that doesn’t work, a long crying spell might.

lack of spirit

I haven’t been able to feel all those touchy-feely things people feel when someone they love more than anything dies. I didn’t feel her presence. I haven’t had a touching dream. I just feel a void. Or worse, a pressing voice asking me where I am, why I haven’t called her back yet, when I’m coming to see her. I don’t feel her spirit resting, I feel it restless and anxious. I feel no closure, no peace, and worse, I didn’t feel she felt those things either. No matter what I said to her while she was dying, she still didn’t want to go.

Last night, late, I went out to my lake. The moon was bright and shining and there was a breeze. I cried so hard and said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Then I just kept asking, “Where are you?” over and over again. I couldn’t feel my grandma’s presence. I couldn’t feel it anymore. “Where are you grandma?” over and over and over. Suddenly, the wind picked up. I looked up and there were the shadows of these clouds flying overhead, quite fast, the wind hurrying them along. I stopped crying. “I’m right here,” they seemed to say. The wind continued to blow harder. “I’m flying.”

I felt something like a simple, “Oh.” Oh there you are, in the wind.

A huge storm blew in then. Like, blew our outdoor chairs all over (some are still missing this morning), broke tree branches, blew rain into the house. I went to sleep with the windows open to feel the wind, but woke up and had to close everything. The thunder and lightning woke M, and scared her so much she fell asleep in my arms like a baby. It felt like a shout, rather than a reply. “I’m right HERE!”

Now I know. She’s flying.



I would like to be able to tell a story that is sad but also filled with peace and comfort at the end of my grandma’s life. But I can’t. Not yet, anyway, and who knows when. Everyone else sees it that way. I was with her all night. I was the last one to talk to her, the last one to hear about her day, the last one to hear “I love you”. I comforted her as she asked me again and again if I was still there. I sat by her, touching her, so she’d know for sure I hadn’t left. She kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you for calling.” She always complained I didn’t answer my phone. She was so glad I was there that night. She kept waking up and saying, “Thank you.” She’d wake up and just say, “I love you.” She asked me about 15 times if it was 5:30am, because that’s when I was supposed to leave for work in the morning. I reassured her every time that I wouldn’t leave without telling her. She’d wake a few minutes later and anxiously ask, “Five thirty??” When the nurse came in, she said, “It’s 5:30, my granddaughter has to go.” And again I reassure d her that it was not 5:30, that we still had all night together.

I was there when she got pain medicine and stopped breathing for a long, long time. I heard her last words. I heard her say, “ok” when they said they were giving her her scheduled meds, although I think she was pretty much asleep. I felt she was already comfortable but also didn’t want her to wake up in pain. I felt crazy guilt when she never woke up again, like I should have stopped them from giving it to her. I, who am the most fervent believer of palliative care and giving pain meds at end of life, who wanted my grandma’s suffering to ease more than anything, panicked. I am still panicked. I wanted to take back that last push of opioids. I wanted one more word with her. One more day. I immediately held her and told her I loved her so much, I was there, I wasn’t leaving. She started breathing again but it was never the same. She was unconscious from then on.

I called my mom to tell her. Then I lay back down beside my grandma. I played her her favorite hymn on my phone and sang it to her. I told her I would love her always and miss her every day. I told her she’d be with her parents and brothers and husband, and Avalon my baby. I told her she’d made me strong, and I’d take care of my mother. I told her we’d be ok. I rubbed her head and said she should rest, I wouldn’t leave her.

My mom and uncle and aunt arrived. They all fell asleep after a while, but I couldn’t. My grandma’s breathing was ragged and soon became rattly. Then in a vocal way she’d gasp rhythmically. She lost control of her bowels and broke into a sweat that soaked her whole bed. The hospice nurses cleaned her for me, about an hour and a half before she died. I heard her breathing change and put my finger on her pulse. I felt it slowing down, I felt it become erratic. I held her in my arms for her last breath. Then I sobbed. My mom had woken for her last breath too and we were both there holding her. We told her she did good. “We love you. You can go. You did good, grandma. You did good.” Everyone else woke up. I just sobbed and sobbed and held her until the nurse came in.

I went to look at the time. It was 5:30am.

She fucking waited until 5:30am to be with me as long as possible. I had called in of course and was not going to work, but in her mind I had to go at 5:30 and so she waited until I said goodbye. She waited for me. She only wanted me, all the time, she wanted me to call her and visit her and come have lunch with her. When she went to the hospital she only wanted me to be sit there with her and talk to the doctors for her. She trusted me and I became her security, the way she’d always been mine. But so often the responsibility overwhelmed me or annoyed me. So often I needed others to go visit her while I stayed home. I hated talking on the phone and didn’t call back or answer. I would go see her on  my days off instead, but still. I should have answered every fucking time. The guilt is setting in and crashing down in waves. Thank god at the end I didn’t disappoint her. I was never enough for her but at least on that one night I was there when she needed me. At least in the end, I didn’t let her down. Thank god for that.

I wish I could say that it was all ok and as it should be. I did everything I would’ve told someone else to do. But I felt in my heart and soul that she didn’t want to go. Perhaps it is just me who didn’t want her to go, but I really felt she wasn’t there yet. Her body was tired and weak and ready, yes. But the night before she just kept insisting to me that she needed to go to bed, so she could watch videos with me and look at photo albums with me the next day. Maybe that’s totally normal. I just wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t prepared for her to be sitting up clearly talking and laughing and visiting and eating, and then die in the night.

It’s not at all like I thought it would be. I see images of her body dying and dead every second. I agonize over every word she said to me that night. I feel the thready pulse under my fingers. I feel her skin, hot at first then cool and clammy, her cheek as I pressed mine to hers, her hand in mine, her arm as I rubbed it. I feel sick inside, physically and in all other ways. It all feels very wrong and I so expected it to feel very sad but also ok.

I thought elderly, sick people who die with pain meds and family around at the end of a long period of suffering was ok. I thought it was the best death we could give them, which meant that inside I would feel peace, if not grief and loss of course. But I don’t feel peace. I feel anxious, desperate, and traumatized. I am suddenly obsessed with the thought that my mom is going to die soon, too. I feel like I need to lie next to her and obsessively listen to her breathe. I’m seeing images of her as well, gasping for air and not responding. I suddenly understand what paranoid, psychotic people must feel all the time. This is totally and completely not what I expected. I think I will seek professional help.


I can’t believe she’s gone. I can’t. The entire night is like a nightmare in my mind, the one I’ve always had where my grandma is dying or dead but this time it’s real. I did everything right but nothing feels ok. It’s supposed to be an “ok sad” when an old person dies comfortably and surrounded by loved ones.

But nothing about it felt ok. I told her all the right things, but I could sense she wasn’t ready. Her body was ready but she wasn’t. I just knew she wasn’t. She didn’t want to go, which is so different from how my grandpa went.

I spent the night listening to her beg me not to leave, constantly ask if I was still there, tell me she loves me, and then, silence punctuated by hour after hour of agonal breathing, death rattle, checking her pulse, twisting and turning, heart burning up in my chest and stomach heaving. I couldn’t leave her at first and then I had to. I got so sick. My head was imploding, my stomach was dancing up near my throat. I don’t want to see my grandma dead, but I don’t want to leave her either.

Now I have a child who is kicking, and throwing, and also trying very hard to not upset me even though we are all so upset. Somehow I have to be a mother. Somehow I have to clean up the cat poop I just found on the floor. I have to remember to feed my daughter, and make sure she doesn’t run off outside, and cut her too-long fingernails, and water the flowers outside. How the fuck am I supposed to do this? It’s so hard to even take a breath.

One minute at a time I suppose.

Did I ever mention that I grew up, and by that I mean up into my 30s, lying in bed sometimes crying because my grandma was going to die? Even in that abstract way, it was shaking me up. Even long before it showed any signs of happening. I lived in terror of the day I’d have to be strong without her, even as I was being strong for her. I’ve never lived in a world without my grandma holding me up. I’ve never been very confident I could survive it. I’ve never truly wanted to.

One of my “parents” is gone. My mom better fucking stay alive for a bit. I’ve never needed her more. I’ve never needed everyone else to be “ok” more than I do right now, because I’m fucking falling apart. I’m not going to be “ok” for some time. I thought losing a baby was the hardest thing in the world but it’s a different hardest thing than losing someone who formed your identity, who gave you your self. I guess there are many “hardest things”, not just one.

Now I’ll never have to have those dreams about her dying again. They’ve been replaced by memories. I’m sorry I can’t remember it as a peaceful, natural part of life. It was just too, too terrible to be that. I made it look like that on the outside, but it really wasn’t. I’m dazed, sick, confused, panicky. I’m supposed to be the one who can deal with everything, but right now I really mean it when I say I can’t.

I need all the help I’m not going to get right now. Because this time I really can’t.