Grandma Pie is near her end. The house is filled with tears.
I won’t deny that my frustration with her has always made the relationship that I had with my mother-in-law tenuous, but I never expected her to pass away like this. I just hope and pray that she’s not in pain. I’m actually praying and I am not a religious person at all.
Grandma Pie had yet another stroke over the weekend, but this one appears to be the final straw. It did extensive brain damage and started a bleed in her brain that the doctors are unable to stop. Her condition will continually deteriorate, and she was given 6 months to live.
However, Grandma Pie had an advanced directive that said in these situations, she did NOT want to be kept alive by machines or a feeding tube, which turned out to be the critical part of what happened next.
Grandma Pie’s esophagus and the little muscle that supposed to keep the top of your stomach closed are so damaged that she aspirates every time she eats or drinks something. So to keep her nourished she would need a feeding tube. Her advanced directive prevents feeding tubes. Once we realized what was happening, the crying began.
The grieving had started.
Grandma Pie had a lot less than 6 months left to live.
Since the final stroke, Grandma Pie has not been lucid often. She’s been mainly unresponsive and near comatose. We warned the kids about this when we took them to the Hospice care facility that Grandma Pie had been transferred to so she could live out her final days in comfort. It wasn’t going to be easy, but the kids needed to say goodbye to their Grandma Pie, and if she wasn’t lucid enough to know what was happening, at least the kids get to see her one last time.
That is what we expected.
That is not what happened.
As we entered the hospice room, she was alert, wide-eyed and making the most coherent sentences in weeks. Not eating for four days had already made a visible change. Her cheeks were sunken and her arms were thinner than normal, but the ride from the hospital to the hospice facility must have woken her up and made her realize that the end was indeed near.
“I’ll see you all in heaven,” were the first words out of her mouth.
Tears were running down our cheeks before we could respond.
We all took turns holding Grandma Pie’s hands, telling her how much we loved her, and going over stories about school and work. lt was painful. It was also beautiful. The kids were getting their last day with Grandma so they could clear their consciousness and not feel guilty about missing out on their last moments with her, my wife an I were there to make sure she knew she wasn’t and wouldn’t be alone for her remaining days, and she seemed to accept her fate – which only made us cry even more.
When it was time to go home for the night, again we all lined up to hold Grandma Pie’s hand, give her a kiss and say with shaken confidence “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Once the kids had said their peace, my wife went to talk with the nurse to check on something, and I leaned in to say my goodbye.
She took my hand, then looked me dead in the eye and with a soft resolve told me, “You do what you have to do for your family. You understand?” I nodded and choked back more tears. “I will,” I responded as I gripped her hand as tightly as possible without causing any pain.
When my wife returned, I let go of Grandma Pie’s hand and walked out of the room to check on the kids. We all left the hospice and drove home in solemn silence. This was not the end I had pictured for Grandma Pie. Seeing her half wasted away in that hospital bed brought back memories of when my own grandmother and mother were in similar situations during their final days. More tears.
Knowing that her body is going to slowly shut down in the next few days as she starves. More tears.
Knowing that there is nothing that anyone can do about it, but make her comfortable for her remaining days. More tears.
I hope and pray that she’s not in pain.