My Grandma Is Dying
Two months ago, my father sat down with me and told me that I was about to lose the great love of my life – my beloved Grandma. “She has a very aggressive form of Leukemia that is most common in children. There is nothing that can be done. She has about 3-6 weeks”.
This was the moment that I had been dreading my entire life.
I had to get in my car and drive over to her house at 10:30pm to see her. She was expecting me and when she walked down the hall into the living room, I tried to keep myself from crying so I said, “Grandma, how could you do this to us?” and she deadpanned her response - “I just wanted some attention.”
Grandma has been the one constant in my life. With everything that ever changed in my life, everything about Grandma has stayed exactly the same. Her house is the only home I have ever known.
When I was growing up, I lived in a very turbulent household. My mom and her second husband would continually scream and physically fight with each other. I have a lot of memories of their violence and how it made me feel sick to my stomach. But then I have the memories of the summer when I would come to visit my dad and Grandma and what a different climate it was for me. They spoke so lovingly and respectfully towards each other. Grandma never got mad or yelled. She always had hugs and she laughed all the time. Her love for me was not conditional based on my grades or behavior like it was at home; but rather it was freely given and without reserve. It was such a welcome respite for my brother and me.
Growing up, I was closest to my Grandma. She has always been much more like a mother to me than my own mother was capable of being. Despite the fact that we sometimes lived far away from each other, we always had a deep and abiding love for one another. When I felt sad, I called her. When I wanted to talk, she listened. When I started my period for the first time (on a camping trip with my dad and brother!), I asked my dad to take me to her house. She took good care of me as she welcomed me into womanhood.
When I came out last year and ended my 18 year marriage, I knew that she would be as loving and gracious the same way that she always has in the past. I had waited until after her surgery at the beginning of January to tell her so that she would not worry about me while she was about to go through her medical issues. When she had her surgery, there were complications (they didn’t know she was sick then) and what was supposed to be a 3 day stay in the hospital turned into 6 weeks. We all took turns sitting with her.
One night while I was at her bedside, she told me that she knew that I had been unhappy for a long time and was there anything that I wanted to talk about? So I just told her right there in the hospital.
This 78 year old steel magnolia did what very, very few people in my family did. She listened to me. She didn’t judge me. She told me how sorry she was that I had tried so hard for so long, that it was nothing to be ashamed of and she was not ashamed or embarrassed, that I would be okay and that she would always love and support me. She just wanted for me to be happy and be with someone that I could love and who would love me back the same way – the way that she had loved my grandfather.
I got to hear about how she met him and that she fell in love with him that same day. They were engaged 3 days later and married 3 months later. They stayed married until he died over 30 years ago. She has never dated another man and she still dreams about him at least once or twice a week. She says she can’t wait to see him again. My dad teases her by telling her that when he died, he was in his early 50’s. She’ll be nearly 80 and he may not want her when he sees what she looks like now.
There has never been a conversation between Grandma and I where she did not call me “precious one” at least once. There has never been a crisis in my life where I did not call Grandma for advice. There has never been a day since my 2 kids were born that I did not pray and ask God to allow her to live long enough so that they could know her. And she has. My 14 and 16 year olds not only know her, they adore her as much as every other person who knows her.
My Grandma has lived past the 6 week prognosis they have 8 weeks ago. She is trying to make it until her birthday this Sunday. We have all been taking turns staying with her, sitting at her feet and listening to her talk to visitors and callers to console them, give them advice and minister to their spirits.
Recently, I crawled into bed with her to pray with her before bedtime. I could barely get “Our Heavenly Father” out before I began to cry like a baby. How will I live without her? I really don’t know. I can’t even think of what I will do each day knowing that she isn’t going to be there. The person that I love the most in this world will not be with me for the rest of my life and I have no idea what my life will be like without the great love of my life.
I trust in what she tells me and everyone else who is struggling through this. She says every single time we talk, “Shan, everything is going to be all right.” And I know it will.
God, thank you for her life and the impact that she has had on me. You knew that I would need balance to be able to see good and bad and you gave me the very best role model in her. Please take good care of her until I see her again. Thanks….