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"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

Monday, January 15, 2007

Acceptance or Simply Rambling, I'm Not Really Sure

The theme over at Mama Says Om this week is "Acceptance," and after the day I've had it couldn't be more appropriate.

At around 10 a.m. this morning I got a phone call from my mom. Now, I'm one of those people who uses caller ID at all times and have even assigned certain ringtones for certain people so that I don't even have to look at my phone to know who it is. Well, I was covered with two cuddling boys this morning while I lay on the couch, and I figured she was calling about coming over tomorrow, so I let the voicemail pick up.

Sure enough, she had left a message, but I forgot all about the call for about an hour or so . . . I wish I hadn't - forgotten about it, let the voicemail pick up, screened it . . . I should have picked up the phone because my mother was hysterical. Hysterical in the sense that I couldn't understand most of the words coming out of her mouth because she sounded as if she was having trouble catching her breath as she sobbed.

I caught my name . . . then "your aunt called me" . . . then "Grandma" . . . lots and lots of sobbing . . . then "I have to go today, I'm going today" . . . "Call me."

A little backstory. My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer probably six or seven years ago. She had a mastectomy, she did the radiation treatments and she went into remission. She stayed that way until about six or seven months ago when she started having severe pain in her shoulder. Sure enough, the cancer was back and it had spread. The doctors did their best to manage her pain, she was forced to move into an assisted living community in November and then hospice care just a few weeks ago. It was then that they told us she probably had six months to live.

My grandmother has been having nightmares about dying, specifically dying alone. She has panic attacks in the middle of the night because of her fear. And I think she's been fighting her disease not because she wants to continue to live, but because she's so afraid of dying.

Well, it appears she has stopped fighting or as I'd like to think of it - she's come to accept that dying isn't necessarily the worst thing that can happen to you. My aunt called my mother this morning to tell her that the hospice nurse believed that my grandmother has only a few days left on this Earth and that anyone who wants to say goodbye needs to do it now.

When I called my mother back she was much calmer and was trying to book a flight out ASAP. She assured me that she was OK and that she would be OK to travel alone. She said that it was the shock of the phone call that really got her this morning, but that she was doing all right now because she had accepted months ago that her mother was probably not going to be with her for much longer; that her mother was suffering from cancer, in pain - physically and emotionally - and that maybe dying wouldn't be the worst thing, for my grandmother anyway. For my mother, of course, it's still traumatic.

She made it back to the state of her birth early this evening and I believe she is probably with my grandmother as I write this. (I hope she is, at least) And I guess I feel kind of strange because my acceptance of my grandmother's impending death came many months ago when I first heard of her cancer's reappearance. The first thoughts I had were - I hope she doesn't suffer; Maybe it would be better if she went quickly before it got too bad; This isn't fair, I mean, once you hit your mid-80's you should get a "free pass" and be assured that you will die, without pain, in your sleep when the time comes.

And today when I heard my mother's voice on the message I assumed at first that my grandmother had, in fact, already passed and I was almost relieved for her. I imagined that she was finally having a peaceful sleep. And as I type that I feel as if maybe I'm being cold. I feel as if I should be crying, if not for my grandmother then at least my mother who is going to be a basket case when my grandmother dies. But I'm not crying. I don't feel like crying.

Is that strange? I love my grandmother very much. To say she is an individual, that she is independent, strong willed and outspoken is an understatement. Although since leaving her home of sixty some odd years so she could be cared for elsewhere, she's been more of a victim.

Is it possible to have accepted some one's death BEFORE they die? I mean, she's old and we all knew she wouldn't live forever. She has cancer and we knew it was going fast. Her death within the year was expected, but is that the same as acceptance?

It wasn't for my grandmother. She hadn't accepted it while she was having her nightmares, but I'd like to think she has now. I'd like to think that she will go peacefully . . . maybe still in her sleep . . . and she won't be afraid . . . and she won't try to fight . . . Because she has suffered enough and I want her to get some rest.

I'm not really sure what all this rambling really means. It's almost 1 a.m. and I just can't sleep right now and when I saw the theme over at MSO this week (I'm not even sure this post applies to the theme at this point), I just immediately thought of my grandmother. She was never the type who baked cookies or read to us, but we always had fun sleeping over at her house. She wasn't big on giving lots of hugs and kisses, but she had this way of saying goodbye to us where she would stand outside and wave with both hands and then raise a leg, bent at the knee, and kick as if her foot was waving as well.

She took me on the "Trip of a Lifetime" where we flew over on the Concorde to London where we spent a few days, then took a train to Paris where we spent a few more days and then we were supposed to fly back to the UK and get on the QE2 back to the States. Unfortunately, back in 1997, our trip was derailed when I had to force her to check into a hospital in Paris because I believed that a pain she had in her shoulder was more than a muscle pull. It was, in fact, a blood clot that was working it's way to her heart. She was in the ICU in Paris for a few days and after about a week or so was finally given permission to fly home. No QE2, no more trips to Europe (or anywhere else for that matter) with her granddaughters . . . It was the beginning, really, of many health problems to come.

I will miss her of course, but it's my own mother and my aunt who I feel the most for. They are about to lose their mother. My only hope is that they can find some comfort in knowing that at least her pain is about to end and I hope that they believe that she did not struggle at the end because she was ready to go. She had not only accepted that it was her time, but she embraced it because she really needed the rest.

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At 1/15/2007 01:57:00 AM, Blogger cherylann said...

I don't think that you are being cold by not crying. I think you have accepted it, and that you are trying to be strong for your mother... which no doubt you will need to be when the time comes. I know from past experience with hospice care that your grandmother will leave without pain, and once again be reunited with your grandpa. It made my heart smile to think of her waving goodbye with both arms and a leg... and I know it would make her smile if you told that story to your boys occasionally. If you need someone to talk to... you know where I am. xoxo

At 1/15/2007 09:42:00 AM, Blogger Em said...

Such a very difficult time for families. But yes, it is certainly possible to accept someone's death before they die. In some cases, that actually makes it easier for you and them. Your final times with them can be loving and sharing rather than focused on struggles about interventions and medical procedures. Tears don't prove you love someone. But the wonderful things you said in your post prove how much you love her. My thoughts will be with you.

At 1/16/2007 05:46:00 PM, Blogger MuseinMeltdown said...

I have had a day of "feelings" today and reading your blog - I "felt" for you and the absence of tears - the ache and the pain - my friend I am crying for you, that is all I can do to help.

So poignantly and beautifully written - the emotions are there in the words not the tears, and will last longer.


At 1/22/2007 12:28:00 AM, Blogger Shelley said...

Yes, it is possible to accept a death before it happens. At some level, anyway.

And grief is hereby exempted from "shoulds."

Take good care of yourself and your loved ones in this time of need. On your own terms.


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