My Grandmother died last night. We knew that it was coming, but it still seemed to go way faster then we expected.
A year ago, at 82, my Grandmother was diagnosed with liver cancer. This took us all by surprise as she was one of the healthiest people I knew. She walked everywhere, lived at home by herself and did not have any major medical problems. The only reason she found out was because her hairdresser thought that she looked a little yellow and she went to get it checked out. Turns out that there was a cancerous growth growing. After weighing the options, she decided to give chemo a try. She was wary of loosing her standard of living (and her ability to enjoy a good meal…one of her true pleasures in life) but wanted to give it a try. She took extremely well to the treatment and it started working. She never lost her appetite, maintained a decent energy level and best of all, the tumor stopped growing. She was healthy enough to come down to Ocean City with my dad this past summer to spend time with me and the boys. And she came down to Virginia in the fall to see one of Kyle's soccer games. She seemed to be doing extremely well. Until this month. The chemo stopped working and the tumor was growing again. They tried a different chemo but that caused blood clots in her legs and she decided that was enough. She decided that this was time and stopped the chemo a few weeks ago.
I spoke with her on Mother's Day. We had a longer then usual conversation…talked about how she was feeling, that she had just gotten a wheelchair and was hoping that would help her get her energy back. That my dad was getting her a hospital bed because she was having trouble getting in and out of hers. That she was very tired. This was surprising to me as she rarely complained. We talked about the boys, what they were up to, about the camp we were going to. She loved hearing about the boys (her only great-grandchildren). All in all a wonderful conversation. I sent her a thank you letter that Jason had written, a picture Kyle had drawn as well as the pictures from our last trip to the beach (with the boys on their bannana bikes).
At that point she started going downhill. By the time we got back from camp on Thursday (less then 2 weeks after Mother's Day), the hospice folks were saying that they did not expect her to last another week. I was going to go up on Sunday, but by then it was apparent that it was progressing very quickly. Sunday she fell into a coma and died at 11:35pm.
So we knew that it was coming. But it happened so quickly. Which was a good thing for her as she had only a couple of weeks of not feeling herself and an even shorter time of really being out of it. But it is still strange for me to adjust to, as she was always so fit and healthy.
My Grandmother and I were not extremely close, but she has always been a presence in my life and I will miss her a lot. I loved my visits to her house when we were growing up. She saved some of my Aunt's toys for me to play with. My brother and I used to slide down the outside door to the basement. I remember my Grandmother mostly in the kitchen, cooking and I remember the hustle and bustle of my aunt and uncles around the small kitchen table. She was watching us when the the car crashed into our porch up in New York, leaving the chip in the stone steps. And she was there countless other times throughout my life.
My Grandmother always bought us cookies from the bakery around the corner when we visited. Butter cookies with sprinkles mostly. Sometimes black and white frosted cookies. And we always had crumb buns. Yum. Everytime she came to visit she brought me cookies and crumb buns, even after I had graduated college and had my own family. I love that the boys remember these cookies as well.
She never missed a holiday or a birthday. The card always showed up a couple of days before without fail. Although I don't remember her saying it, I always got a sense that she loved us and I know that she was so thrilled with the boys. Always wanting to know what they were up to. I made her a photo calendar every year and she told me that she would say good morning to the boys on her refrigerator and talk to them periodically through out the day.
She had very simple needs and always seemed to me to be very content. She rarely bought herself things that she did not need and the only major changes in her house were things that her children bought her. I remember talking with her about her family when I was in my geneology phase. She told me that her family never really did anything exciting and was not sure what I was looking for. Then proceeded to talk about how her mother came over here at 16 (I think, I will need to go look it up) by herself from Austria! I do wish that we had talked more about her life, but she was not a huge talker. That was just the way she was.
I realized today that she lived on her own for 20 years as a widow. My Grandfather died when I was 17. We had a wonderful party for her when she turned 80 and she really did have a wonderful last few years and a good life. And she died at home with her family. She is survived by 4 children, 7 grandchildren and 2 great-grandsons. And she will be deeply missed.
My 38th birthday is on Friday. When I got home from camp this past Thursday, my birthday card, signed by her, was waiting for me. Thank you Grandma.