Last year my grandmother passed away. It was a surprise to us when the doctor told us she had stomach cancer. At her age it was impossible for chemo or any sort of treatment to work on her and living in the US I doubt they would spend any more time and money trying to cure something so life threatening like stomach cancer. I believe the goal for the doctors was to make her feel comfortable and pain free. She would keep asking every day she would spend in the hospital if she was able to go back home. Sometimes I wondered if she already knew that she wouldn’t make it or if she just accepted that her time was coming. She seemed calm most days, I didn’t see her cry about it. I recall when I went to the hospital to visit her and the doctor came in and explained that there was nothing they could do anymore and the best thing was to take her home or place her in a hospice. To this day I still don’t know if we made the right decision of taking her back to her home.
The last day she was at the hospital I brought her some flowers and everyone in my family was visiting her and trying to show a bit of relief that she was finally going to be home. They would have a nurse be on call to help her throughout the day to make her feel better and to ease the pain. She lost a lot of weight which made her look so fragile and delicate. Most of her skin would hang around her bones and she would just lay down and rest most of the day like if waiting to be taken. I laid down next to her one day in her bed, her room was dark like always with just the corner of the curtain raised as to let a little bit of sunlight in. She would turn her head and occasionally look at me, she probably wondered how I felt. It took me a while for me to hold back my tears and ask her something I wondered, I stared at the ceiling and asked her, “What are you thinking?”
She just simply replied, “Nothing.” We were very close, since I was a kid I spent days by her side. My parents had to distract me whenever she would leave our home because I would beg her to take me with her. Whenever my parents would let me stay over at her place, she would put a small mattress next to her bed and allow me to sleep next to her. It was peaceful. I enjoyed her so much.
We used to wake up every Saturday at 4 AM to get up early and go with my grandfather to yard sales and find things to resell. We would finish around 8 AM and head over to have breakfast in some corner diner we would find. She would always say “One day when I pass away you will remember these moments when we used to come and have breakfast together.” She would say this and my mind would go crazy, just the thought of loosing her I could not imagine. I just could not fathom the idea of not being able to see her one day. I would tell her to stop saying those things and I would say how it would be years from now until that would happen, hoping in the back of my mind that someone would discover the answer to eternal life. As a young girl I cried many nights just thinking what I would do when she would pass away one day, how would I move forward? Would I be able to continue life?
I was far away when I received the news from my family members that she was getting close to her last day. I made the decision that same day that it would best to go and see her. I arrived and went inside the house to her room. She was breathing heavily and was unable to talk. I sat next to her and noticed she couldn’t even lift her head anymore. But the moment I sat down I began to talk to her and tell her that I was right there next to her. I kept telling her, “I’m here I’m already here.” At that moment she lifted her head with her last strength opened her eyes and looked at me and took a deep breath and dropped her head again. I spent time cleaning her hands, wiping blood from under her finger nails from all the coughed-up blood she had earlier that day. I felt like crying and letting all my pent-up emotions just swim out of my body. But I thought for a moment, what would be the best way for her to leave? What would be the last thing I'd want to hear or see? I’d want to see everyone accept my death, I would want to see everyone move on and not suffer, the last thing id want would be to see my loved ones cry and sob. I would fear letting go and it would be hard for me to know that they might have trouble moving on in life and that my death will affect so many aspects of their lives. I held in my tears and kept cleaning her hands and face, I started a conversation with the nurse and we would begin talking about random subjects as I held my grandmothers’ hand. I know deep down she appreciated that I did not cry I still feel to this day this helped her let go and eased the pain of leaving everyone behind.
It was late and everyone was tired and I headed back home to rest for a bit. Shortly after I left, she passed away. She was not with us anymore. I couldn’t go back to see her again. It was already hard to have the last memory of her the way she was. That night was last night I saw her in life. And I wonder every day where she is? And will I ever see her again?