I've been pondering this entry for three weeks now; my heartfelt "goodbye" to my amazing grandmother. But I hate that word: goodbye. It seems so finite. And especially in the context of losing someone, I have this sense that saying goodbye implies never finding one another again.
My grandmother's health had been declining in the last year and a half or so. If you saw pictures from two years ago, you would have seen a healthy lady, happy and endearing as always. But things can turn so fast.
And that's the thing that makes cancer such a fucking bitch.
Soon she had lost the ability to produce saliva and speak clearly. It was incredibly hard to watch her eat and to see my parents' frustration and grandma's frustration when she tried to tell them something. It was hard to understand. And we would have never known that later on, what we would give to hear that voice at that moment just once more.
She resisted for a long time, but finally the eating situation was so bad that she really needed a feeding tube. And with the feeding tube required 24 hour monitoring that was hard on her children. I know mom had to work hard days at work and then her weekends were spent caring for grandma. But that's what you do for someone you love so much.
They did this for almost a year or maybe longer. I'm not entirely sure of the timeframe. And my grandma was so strong. She was a fighter. She shocked doctors who didn't think she had much time left. But that kind of living only lasts for so long.
Soon she lost the ability to speak at all. She had a bike horn that she would honka-honka whenever she needed something. And she could only communicate by writing things out. But how wonderful to have documentation that we can keep and cherish of her thoughts. On several pads of paper.
In her last few months the only thing that she really enjoyed doing was play mahjong. I wish I could have played with her more, but we got in two last game sessions. And I'm happy to say that as weak as they say she was, she kicked our asses in those last two games. Her brain was still so sharp. It's just that her body wasn't up for the task.
During her last week she eventually lost all hearing and could only see, albeit not 100%. But the last time I saw her alert and awake, I skipped work to see her at the hospital. They had stabilized her after a scare. I went in there and she was awake, but her eyes were sort of glazed over. And she was looking directly above her. I could almost see the reflection of whatever heavenly matter that manifested above her in her retinas. And then she turned her head slowly and saw me. And even though only one side of her cheek was functional, she still gave me a smile and a nod. And I knew she would be all right. She then turned back to look above her and I can only imagine what amazing mystical entity had her in awe. But I guess I'll let you know in my final blog entry when I get there.
A week later, on January 17, 2012, kidney dialysis wasn't an option, so the entire family rallied by her side. We even video chatted via iPad to Ellvin and Grace in New York. With her children around her bed and her grandchildren watching a live FaceTime stream in the waiting room, we let her go. Probably one of the hardest things to ever watch. Ever.
I was told that her big fear was that no one would be around her when she passed away. And the entire day of the 17th she had been in a coma. But within her final 37 seconds of life, for a brief second, she opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by all she loved and so much love.
I have to recognize this amazing family that I am a part of. How they took care of her in this final year; learning how to use these heavy duty medical contraptions. Despite all the hardships, they made it work. They banded together, closer than ever, and gave her one more year. So to hear my Auntie Debbie crying on a shoulder and wishing there was more she could have done for her.. broke my heart. You guys did so much. Know that. You did everything. And it would never feel like enough. I only hope and promise to do as much as you did for grandma for my parents and my family and my future husband.
I've written a lot about her final moments. I wanted to have this documented if only because I feel that my mind will want to let go of this heartache and block this painful time from my memory. But it's important to remember it; to remind myself of the strength this family has gained through all this. And maybe I should have written more loving memories I had with grandma on this tribute. But the thing is I'll always have and cherish those times.
Like the joy of seeing her complete English word searches and learn some English along the way! And how cute she was when she smiled at me in Yellowstone and she forgot she didn't have her dentures in but then smiled even more because she couldn't help it. And her calls to us to drive down to her house to walk over to the park and get free lunchy.
And so I won't say goodbye. Not here. I will simply say sleep well Po Po. Sleep with no pain. Sleep with your most wonderful dreams and memories. Sleep until we all wake again reunited, in the big KFC in the sky, and move beyond that mystical entity above together.