"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Grandma

I've been absent from the blogosphere for so long that I may have lost all of my followers. If not, I'm finally able to spend some time catching up on every one's lives and put down some words about what has been going on in my world. Summer has been busy so far with both work and play. I'll recap the last month and a half in a separate post.

Me with grandma & grandpa - 2008
The past few weeks have been a time of mourning and saying goodbye to my grandma, or Grandma Chris as most of us grand kids have always called her. Grandma Chris is my dad's mother, Gloria Marie Christiansen. The family said goodbye to grandma on Tuesday at her funeral following her death a week ago.

Grandma's death wasn't unexpected. She became ill several weeks ago and was put on home hospice care. When I first found this out I felt a little panicked. I knew I'd have to face her death sooner rather than later, but when I was actually confronted with it I didn't feel at all prepared. My dad, aunts, grandpa and uncles were all taking turns being with her 24/7. None of us expected her to last more than a week. Emotions were high on my first visit  after she was put on hospice. I walked into the house not knowing what to expect. I was scared. What would I say? How would she look? How on earth was I supposed to say goodbye? I sat next to her bed, holding her hand while tears streamed down my face, barely able to talk. Seeing my grandpa so sad made it even harder. When I left I was thankful for the chance to see and talk to my sweet grandma, but I was also completely grief-stricken at the thought of her no longer being a part of my life. 

For the next several days and nights I waited, expecting a call at anytime telling me that she was gone. The call never came. I sent my dad frequent texts asking for updates. I probably drove him crazy with my constant need for information. I was going to be going out of town for a few days, so I visited again before leaving town. Things were much better on that visit. Grandma was frail, but she was talking. We visited about everyday things--talking about my grandpa's garden, the weather, what I was up to in my life, just regular stuff. Not a single tear was shed. It felt like so many other past visits to grandma and grandpa's. My dad, grandpa, aunts and uncles were just down the hall, gathered in the living room laughing and sharing stories, teasing each other like they always have. I stayed for over an hour just soaking it all in, enjoying every moment. I left town feeling very at peace. Things were just as they should be. Grandma was home, in her own bed with her husband and children there with her. She was being cared for in the most tender, loving, gracious, way possible. 

Heading into her third week of hospice care when I returned from my trip, amazingly, not much had changed. I was lucky enough to get one more visit with grandma, spending a couple of hours with her and grandpa so my dad and aunt could have a break. Did my dad  know how much I needed more time with her? What a gift that time was. Those are treasured hours for me, very precious memories. Grandma and I talked about so many things. She was happy and smiling, even kind of silly. Grandpa and I watched Gunsmoke in between checking on grandma. I smile just thinking of that night. I'll be forever thankful for that time with her. 

Grandma died the next night. I was able to say one last goodbye during her last hour. I said my goodbye with absolutely no regrets. She knew how much she meant to me--how deeply I loved her--and I know how much she loved me. I was lucky enough to have her in my life for 44 years. I am so grateful for the beautiful, dignified death she had. My sadness and grief is softened by knowing how well she was loved at the end. I'm in awe of the way my dad and his siblings took care of grandma non-stop for over three weeks. I witnessed absolute devotion as my grandpa took tender, loving care of his wife of 70 years. Her death proved to me you really do get back what you put out into the world. Grandma died as she deserved to, with all the love she had spent her life giving others being returned to her ten-fold. 
Gillian with her great-grandma 
Keicha Marie, Gloria Marie and Gillian Marie
Valentine's Day 2013


  1. This is a beautiful remembrance of Grandma Chris. I'm so grateful you had this time with her. I think that she appreciated you being there probably more than you will ever know. I know she always having you, her namesake, by her side.

    Your father and his siblings, and Grandpa Chris taught you a very valuable lesson on caring for those at the end of their days. I hope to have the same blessing when my time comes. Love you.

  2. Keicha, this is one of the loveliest and most honest posts I've read about being with someone on their last journey. When I was in training for my grief counseling work, I learned that the average Hospice stay is three days -- this was almost 20 years ago but I'm not sure it has increased that much. People just didn't want to move to that stage -- like it was giving up. The ironic thing is that in many cases, Hospice can make those last times so very much easier for the patient. They have time to say goodbye, time to be surrounded by those they love and perhaps with less pain, and often in their own home. I'm grateful your family was wise enough to make that decision so that she could have that benefit of being surrounded by love. Certainly your love was important to her; indeed, I do believe she waited. You so beautifully express the fear of saying goodbye. But then, don't you think that when we've had loss in our life before, every significant loss is a little harder? I do.

    I remember your mom's post on this -- she sounded like a remarkable woman. You were lucky to have her in your orbit. (I, too, am catching up on far too many posts. It's good to "see" you again!)


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