Monday, January 17, 2011

Funny thing about dying

Weirdly, I managed to miss all my grandparents final moments, except for my grandmother, who passed away Sunday. 14 years TO THE DAY, that she lost her own husband, which, in and of itself is freaky. Knowing that my family (grandma included) had a bizarre sense of humor that, well lets be frank, most people just don't get. They just don't have the capacity to appreciate the bizarre and strange.

I woke up on Sunday and went to my parents house to babysit grandma. We have been taking 24 hour shifts for MONTHS now. It has been the most exhausting and draining thing I have ever done, emotionally, physically and mentally. For the past few months, she was restless, had lost a ton of weight and couldn't get comfortable to save her life. Pun intended.  I showed up at 800ish and had my coffee. Went in to sit with her and she was laying there, her breathing had changed to short quick breaths and she had her eyes open but wasn't blinking. I wonder if her spirit was even there at that point. She held onto life like no one I had ever seen. She had always been a fighter though. When she was 20, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Out of 25 people in her support group, she was the only one that survived. When she was 19, she saw her first husband die right before her eyes. She instantly became a single mother of a 3 year old, back in the days when a woman couldn't even have her own bank account. And yet, she survived. She had the most resilient spirit of anyone I have ever known. Even when I was a kid and bad things would happen, she would always tell me to cry about it for a few days, then 'pull up your britches' and move on. And that was her in a nutshell...She was so smart. I think that bothered her the most (aside from not being able to get out of bed towards the end). She would say "I used to be smart, right?" Like she was looking for confirmation that she hadn't always been like this. I know what I am about to say is controversial, and some people cant handle this type of leave now if you are easily offended....

But...I wonder if my friend George didn't have the right idea. When you find out you are really sick...I mean...really sick, not going to get better sick. Just check out on your own terms. Who doesn't want to die pain free, where they want to, how they want to. Laying there suffering, isnt how I personally want to go. I almost wonder what takes more strength to stay until the last breath or to check out on your own terms. I mean, just look at our animals. We "humanely" put them down so they don't have to "suffer".

I know a few, I will never have radiation near my head. I watched it turn two functioning intelligent people into wailing pod people. It wasnt the CANCER that did that, it was the TREATMENT. All I have to say is HELL NO.

If I am ever in a position where I am DX with a terminal, not getting better, going to need care 24x7. Im checking out. My way. No ifs, and's or buts. I am not a proponent of suicide, but this is different. My grandma saved all her life and towards the end it took all of what she had to maintain that kind of care 24x7.

Hospice is a great organization. Just saying. I have seen them through all 4 grandparents. They really are amazing.

I sat down Sunday morning and could see grandma in the bed. She looked distant. I do not think she was ready to die. We had told her several days before, if you see grandpa, go with him! She said, I have to cook dinner first....To me, that said so much. She did get a chance to meet with the chaplain, which for her, was a necessity. She asked her friend Nancy if she thought that she might see Harry again (her second husband) and Nancy said yes of course! Grandma said, well I really want to ask someone that knows for sure...

Which is kinda funny, because noone really knows for sure. But the chaplain was nice, he sang to her and read to her and had a few private conversations that I think helped her.

Mom had come in to sit with me....she picked up her flashlight and shined in on grandma...I started thinking, what if she thinks that is "the light" and in some weird way, I wonder...because not 10 secs later, she jerked her head, took one final breath and died. Mom had also jokingly asked her father (my maternal grandpa, not married to this grandma) to come get her....I wonder if he didn't do just that was too coincidentally weird.

So the process of dying weeks before, I found, disconcerting as a third party observer. But the final moments and the final breath, did look quit peaceful. You exist...breath...and now you don't. Poof.

Funny how we make such a big deal out of birth, it is happy, celebrating, joy...and the flip side, well...poof....

Of course I am still processing all this right now. The grandma I knew and love died 5 years ago when she had radiation to her head.  So in most ways I have mourned the loss of her already. Pod person grandma...well....every now and then I saw glimmers of "the real grandma"....strange....but a reminder of the person she once even herself.

So now I am a grandparent-less orphan of sorts. My four corners are now all...poof.

Anyone that really knows me, knows how much I loved my grandparents. all of them. and now

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