I woke up that morning with a lump in my throat, a headache, and that gut feeling that today was going to be a day I’ll never forget. We were getting ready to fly to Saskatoon to see my grandmother. At 97 years young, we all knew the inevitable was coming but how do you prepare yourself to say your final goodbye? How do you prepare your children to say goodbye?
For the last few years, I had been slowly preparing myself that each visit could be the last one. At least I thought I had been preparing myself. When that call came in, I thought in my head since I had already been preparing myself that I would have handled it a bit better.
“They’re moving Grandma to palliative care today!”
Those words echoed and rang in my ears. I knew what they meant but in that moment those words made absolutely no sense. They were just fitting her for a wheelchair, how on earth is palliative care on the table now? The words shook me, the shakiness in my mom’s voice was louder than any sound I’ve ever heard before. Her choked back tears were like a giant elephant in this phone call. I could hear her fighting them as if to be strong for me.
We spoke briefly, she told me of the plans. Everyone was heading home. The Uncle and Aunt I see once a year in the summer, their child and her family. My brother, sister in law and my two nephews. Even the brother I hadn’t seen in 2 years was coming home. Everyone would be there…. I wasn’t ready. I’m not ready! She’s 97, she just might be ready but I have two little girls who could probably use a few more years with her. It’s selfish I know but I feel entitled.
Thursday, January 19th was a roller coaster of emotions. I cried, I bawled, I laughed and I even felt jealous. I was jealous because, after almost 17 years, I knew that soon my grandma would be reunited with the love of her life.. my grandpa! It was both the most comforting thought and the saddest thought all at the same time.
I’m writing this from the final airplane of the day. We will be landing in Saskatoon very shortly. I’m trying to wrap my brain around seeing her this evening and preparing myself for what she will look and sound like. It’s in that moment that I remember my two girls.
Consumed by grief, I was always aware that they were here but it never dawned on me that they’d have feelings too. Perhaps not necessarily Zoe but Ava.. oh Ava! She’s grown up with her GG, for almost 8 years this strong and amazing women has been an influence in her life and she’s going to have to say goodbye. I’m feeling very ill-prepared to help her cope. I am terrible with death and I have to be present enough for her to embrace her feelings, and hopefully cry when she needs to and speak of her sadness, as she is ready to.
Grief has never been a strong suit of mine and I’m not one to say goodbye. Now in this moment, I feel an intense pressure. This is the second death she has experienced however the first death of a close family member. How we handle this could very well set the stage for how she handles her grief for the rest of her life. She’s always been my little rock but I need for her to know that it’s OK to be sad, to cry and to talk about it. I need her to talk about it even though I really really don’t want to. I need for her to be better at handling this stuff than I am.
Our plane is about to land and I cannot catch my breath. This sadness is unreal. I feel that 16-year-old me overwrought with grief suddenly present again. Please give me the strength to get through this with my girls a little closer and a hell of a lot stronger!
UPDATE: Grandma is still awaiting a bed for palliative care, she has many visitors and as you can imagine has some good days and some bad days but she’s resting often. I had many good moments with her but my favourite was Sunday evening! We had good hour just her and I sitting, not saying much but holding hands and feeling so much love! I feel so blessed by this trip.