There are moments in my life that are so defining that I cannot remember what life was before the thing happened. The moments that change you, can make you.
The last day I saw my grandmother was a vacation day for me. I had been doing errands and procrastinating on going to Hospice to see her. My grandmother had been sequestered to Hospice for about a week. Before that, she was at a hospital in Columbus, so I was not able to see her for at least a month.
I wanted to see her badly, I really did. I chatted briefly on the phone with her when she had the strength to talk. I also found 7 hundred other things to do with my day off that day. I remember that. I went to the bank twice. I drove all the way to deep Kettering, passing her facility stating that I want to “get everything done” before I spent some time with her.
If cancer is a bitch, leukemia is the fake bouchée fancy cousin. Leukemia made cancer look okay when you really weren’t. Leukemia made people know the sickness but not really know the pain. Leukemia made me think my grandmother would be alive forever. She lived with the disease for over 10 years. Even at her worst, she looked great. I have seen tv shows, movies, and even a few friends’ parents go through long-haul sickness. At some point, everyone gets the “you sick” look. Not Marian! She did start to finally look her age, whatever that was 😊 But she never really looked sick. To those who were close. Those who were family knew and could tell. But to the outsider, she just looked like a small old woman.
When I finally got to Hospice, I took my time walking in. I even took a few pictures of the landscaping. I chatted with the landscapers outside busing themselves beautifying the area. By the time I checked in, washed my hands, and made sure my mask was secure; I was ready to see my grandma. Looking back I think I did all that prep because I thought she could still come home. Like I never agreed that Hospice would be her last stop. I remember double and triple checking my masks because I didn’t want to bring anything, any germ to her already sickly body. And if she would just get better, I would come to her in bubble wrap if that meant we could hang out and chat.
Walking into the room, I immediately saw how wrong my thoughts and prayers had been. She was not pale but alert. She was not fussing but functional. She was a small string with the stillest face I have ever seen. She was leaning to the right with a blanket all around her. My emotions immediately took hold, but just that quick denial dropped in. It says “Hey, don’t cry because then you will have to wipe your eyes and then you will not be able to touch her because of all the face touching”. I focused on having a nice, clean, safe visit.
That is grief.
The level of denial and belief that “she’ll get better” was so strong that it held me during the entire stay.
I won’t share everything I talked about, because some things are just for her to smile upon in her final resting place. I will say I had a great visit and I, well we, because in my mind she was talking back the whole time. We talked about Judge Mathis (who was on tv at the moment. We talked about the Voice and how Blake is extra all the time. We talked about my children and the drawings they had done. I held her hand a few times. I tried to give her a hug but it wasn’t tight because I didn’t want to break her. I just needed her to get better so she could get out of the place with the little bitty juices, which were left untouched on her bedside. I remembered being annoyed by the mini juices. My grandma is good for 8 ounces of grape juice!
Anyway, I wanted to take a picture. And even after her death, I sometimes kick myself that I didn’t. But ultimately the picture in my head stopped me. And in moments when I am seeing her, she looks like Marian I knew all my life. Tall, thin, makeup even when going to the grocery store. She has a fedora leaned to the side, green or camel color. Lots of gold customize jewelry and a nice big purse. I visualize the grandma of my late teens and early college who made the pants suits of the ’90s continuously fashionable. Evan Picone was her staple. That is the vision I had in my head during my last visit with grandma. So why would I take a picture? I told myself, “She will look just like this when she comes home”, so I bypassed it.
Because I am such a logical person, reality hit hard and fast. As I begin wrapping up my visit, my aunt was coming over and they preferred only one visitor at a time. So I was trying to leave before we had the chance to converge and get emotional together. I didn’t know how long she had. I didn’t accept how close to death she was, but I did the thing I always did when I left her. To others or nurses, it may have felt like it was a final acknowledgment. But for me, it was not. I said, “Love you, grandma, see you later.”
Once I exited the room and went all the way around the corner I fell. I bent down on the ground and cried hard. In that single moment, my life changed. For most people when they lose a loved one, the day of death is the day they remember. The day the doctor comes in and says “There’s nothing more to do” is the moment that plays on replay in their mind. Or if the person was in the room during the death crock last breath. That is what stays.
But for me, it is none of that. The last time I saw my grandmother was on Friday, May 21st, 2021. That is the day that I will not forget.
The moments that make up our lives are not things that happen to us. They are events that change us and sometimes our path to something new. I lost a whole piece of me that day. And in a way, I am glad it happened before her final breath. God gave me the time I needed to prepare mentally for the real day. When I got the call from my mother, I was at work. Marian S. Ford passed quietly on June 7th, 2021. It was a good day, but I remember keeping my phone close and ready. She told me. I took a few minutes in the breakroom and cried soft quiet tears. I called my husband who said, “Are you coming home?”
My answer was “No, there’s work to do”. Marian was a hard worker and believed in women working and making their own money. I had a tech class that day and a one-on-one appointment. I decided to finish my shift. I was able to make it the next month with a very uncommon steady focus. I completed a beautiful memorial. I chatted with others about her death. I went to bible study and baseball games with a clear head.
My life changed weeks prior, this was just a confirmation and the process of final wishes. I accepted the truth in the hallway of Hospice on May 21st. As horrible as that moment was, it has changed me. Some change was for the better. For example, it has me writing. I am writing so I never forget, but also so I continue to excel in every aspect God has given me skill and talent. My grandmother would want me to do that.
Why am I sharing this today? Often times people see things online, stories, and pain shared, and wonder “What happen today?” Well, today was a good day for me. And surprisingly I wrote most of this blog post in a public place while happily having some me time, just my computer and coffee. It is not my grandmother’s birthday or the anniversary of her passing.
News flash GRIEF DOESN’T TAKE OR RECOGNIZE HOLIDAYS.
I think about my grandma every single day. Even if I don’t mention or otherwise acknowledge it, something has happened, or I have seen something that triggers a grandma’s smile. A book on the shelf at my library, the way an egg is boiled, or potatoes! I see her in my children and am reminded of her lessons and influence on my life every day.
The only thing that happened today to encourage me to write this personal message is I had the courage and motivation to share a moment in my life that changed me. My hope is that you share your moment. It may help someone grow to be courageous and begin to work through their grief instead of living in it.