Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Face of Love

Okay, this isn't the most dignified photo of my grandmother but then my grandmother wasn't the most dignified woman.
Thank God.
Grammy died this morning, in her sleep.
She was born 96 years, one month and a couple of days ago.
Her life wasn't always easy. In fact, I would say that it was rarely easy. She lost her own mother at only 6 years old. Bounced between aunts and an orphanage. Her marriage to my grandfather was something that most women today would never endure.
My grandmother was a pistol, as my dad would say. In fact, a couple of years ago, my family was gathered for Christmas. My dad said something that was pretty shocking to me. He said, with Grammy in the room, "Your Grandmother is in great health. I bet she will make it to a 100." I said that I wasn't taking that bet, how could I possibly win? Grammy sat for a moment and then said "I'll take that bet. I win either way!"
That was Grammy.
Sharp, funny and always looking at life from love.
About 7 years ago, I asked Grammy what her favorite part of her life so far was. She said "All of it." While I knew that shouldn't be true, considering her life, I knew that she meant it. When pressed she told me about going out to the clubs to listen to music and dance with my grandfather. I thought of her, as a young woman in the 1930s, listening to the big bands and the upstarts. Moving to the music and feeling like the world was hers. That still makes me smile.
I spent some time with her a couple of weeks ago. She was fragile and didn't know me.
We sat looking at the finch house at the assisted living center where she lived. She was quiet. I rubbed her back. I stroked her long white hair that was knotted into a bun. She didn't say much this time. She has been leaving for a while. She was mostly somewhere else.
When I arrived I rounded a corner and there she was, sitting in her wheelchair in the hallway. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she had just gotten back from the movies. I asked her what movie and while she didn't remember the movie, she said she enjoyed it. Figuring that she hadn't just seen a movie, I asked her where she saw it and she named the two movie houses from her youth. I told her that I was glad that she had a good time.
We just hung out together. Every once in a while, she would say something. I would hug her and tell her I loved her. She would say that she loved me, that she loved everybody. She did. And truly, everyone who met my grandmother for the entirety of her life, loved her.
She sat with a faint smile on her face and I asked her if she was happy. She said "Why not?"
That was my Grammy.
I will never be the woman that she was and I will never stop trying to be more like her. She is my Grammy, my role model and the perfect combination of strength and love.
I will never stop loving her and if my mind slips from my body when I am older, I hope that some of its jaunts are to our happy times together.
Dance, beautiful Lillian, dance.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

long time no see

it's been ages since i last wrote. family health dramas, ensuing issues and emotions. holidays and a load of shoulds have fully packed the space between now and then.
something that i have been thinking a lot about is the quality of life.
during the past 5 months, my mom has faced some death defying stuff. the doctors said, repeatedly that we needed to have the end of life talk. which we did.
it was hard to wait while my mother took the time, overnight in this case, to decide what she wanted to do. and yes, there was a living will.
what i came to realize about a living will is that it is much about one's will to keep living.
amidst the charts, procedures, tests and vitals, the doctors didn't see it. the nurses didn't see it. they only saw despair and a woman whose body had been through hell. desperate cries for a mere, though potentially life threatening, glass of water. endless bags of this and that and more of something else that i had hoped to never learn about in this lifetime. tubes. miles and miles of tubes.
but our family saw it.
my mom wasn't done.
it wasn't recorded on a chart anywhere. there was no test for the fight left in her. while i listened to the doctors, nurses and even hospice people talk to my mother, i heard what they were really saying. this is big and serious and c'mon you have already lived this long and you should be comfortable.
i lost count of the number of times that i listened to them during this period and watched my mother trying to process what they were saying through the haze of medication.
it was a trying time. okay, that is one of the biggest understatements EVER. but i reminded her, in front of them, that what they said was a possibility not a guarantee, because they didn't know anything for sure.
my mother came home, after just shy of 5 months. she surprised everyone. maybe herself too. doctors and nurses came to say goodbye and wish her well. her third day home she went out for dinner. and on the 5th day she and my sister are going out for her first shopping trip.
all of this is to say that i have been thinking about the quality of life.
i am not good with death. i wish that i was better but i guess it doesn't matter that much as it's coming either way.
this has me looking within even more than normal (yes, it might actually be possible) and looking at others as well.
there are a lot of people who are not living a life of quality. who really aren't happy.
and i think that it is because we, like the doctors, are basing the future on the past. this is what has happened so this is what will likely happen again.
but it doesn't have to be that way.
we don't ever have to stop asking ourselves if we have what we want. i am not talking about an ipad here. i am talking about what actually fulfills our spirit, our life purpose. the thing that ticks off all the boxes of our own cosmic 'honey do' list.
this is way too big for one blog posting. i am in this long running show called life and am doing my best to explore my role in it.
so this, like life, will be continued...