A wisp of a woman lies before me. A husk. Her skin so shrunken, sunken, a canal fallen in between radius and ulna, a spotted fold of old parchment. The crackle of an autumn leaf would break her. She cries in dry whispers. “I am afraid. Don’t leave me.” A pause. Thin tissues close over eyes that have poured out all their tears. “Is Dad gone?”
“Yes, he’s gone.”
Silence for a while. She weeps.
“Did I know?” she asks after a time.
The soft whimper of abject misery.
“Everyone is gone.”
“I’m not gone,” I say. “And my mom. All your kids. Grandkids. Great grandkids. Even one double great. That’s not so bad.”
“No. That’s not so bad.”
Silence. A wan smile. Barely wan.
“I forget,” she says. “I forget all that.”
“I forget that Dad is gone.”
She cries again, the tinder and kindling of ninety years shaking beneath the rumpled chaos of a hospital sheet. Fresh changed. Again. Mourning dignity.
“Please don’t leave me.”
I don’t for a while.
She won’t remember I was there. Or that I had to go. So I will cry for her.
You made me cry. They can feel it, if you hold their hands, squeeze it and visit her more often.That was good narration
Yeah, I got myself too. lol. Sigh.
I'm not used to it, caught me off guard. My mom is retired, so she's up there all the time, plus my aunt and cousin live up there (it's about two hours away). No wonder they're all so worn out. It's all so heartbreaking.
She only forgets on the outside. Her soul will remember for eternity...
I hope so, Horatio, but I have to say, that's also one of the most infuriating things. This was the most devout Christian I've ever known. She literally read in her Bible every day. She lived it, too, not just the talk, you know? And now, here as the end seems to be drawing nigh, it's all gone. Poof. As if it never had been. There is no comfort. Not one drop of it. You try to bring it up, she waves it off. It's gone. Only terror resides in the heart that was so devoted to God all those years. I can't help wonder, where is He? What lesson, what plan could He possibly still have for a woman who can't remember whatever it is she is supposed to be learning from this torturous new trial?
Broke my heart, brought out the tears.
I'm NOT trying to preach, I swear, but you have to know that so much goes on inside her mind that you guys aren't privy too. The sorrow you see is from her letting go of this life, this world, all the people she knows and loves HERE. When she sleeps, you can't possibly know where she is. Caught somewhere between this world and the next. Preparing herself to move on.
Before my stepfather passed away, the Hospice nurse who tended to him overnight kept a journal. He would wake from sleep with no consciousness of HER presence and have entire conversations with people that only he could see. One night, he said to someone that he just wasn't ready. After listening for their response, he then told them, "That's easy for you to say. You're already dead."
I can assure you that her life of faith has not been wasted. Want to see the results? Look at the children, the grand children, the great grandchildren...ALL of the people who love her and have succeeded in no small part because of the support she's provided to them. I wish that I could offer you words that brought you greater comfort, but times like this aren't made for preaching.
My heart's out to you, my friend. I've been there, and it ain't easy. And, I have faith like she does.
Dang - you ripped my heart out with this piece. Yes, that's a compliment - but gosh, it is deep and painful to read. Especially for those of us who have had to let go of someone at that stage of life.
I agree with Horatio - memories and relationships are still there for us in eternity. Maybe the decline of our mortal abilities and faculties is part of what prepares us to let go of this life and move into that realm.
Thanks you guys. Didn't mean to be whiny this morning. I usually don't post sentimental stuff, but I had a hard time sleeping and that just came out when I woke up.
Many, many of us have walked this path with our loved ones. HP is the best grief support (and pre-grief support!) group on the planet!
What a gift that you get to participate in this transition and write so poignantly about it.
I know it doesn't feel like that now. As hard as it is on them, I think it's harder on those who watch helplessly.
We can't help but impose our own feelings and values and desires and fears onto them.
It's not fair.
No. It's not.
But it is life.
It sucks that the body fails and the brain fails. But the spirit is the big star in the big transition. You can't see it gathering strength, but it's pumping iron right now.
Like M2C said, her faith is still in there, even if she can't express it.
I hope there is a hospital chaplain that comes to pray with her/for her. Again, even if she doesn't remember the visit, it's what she would want.
I could go on about the signs to watch for and all that. But really, it's about reveling in every tender moment you get to spend with her.
Be hyper aware, as you clearly are.
Thanks for sharing this very personal (yet universal) experience with your hubber friends.
Poignant words, Shadesbreath, that slice right to the heart. Read to my wife, it brought the same reaction.
We, too, have lost loved ones, and your words brought back the last days with my father. We cry with you.
Others have responded very eloquently to your moving words, Shadesbreath. All I can say is, been there, done that, hated it. I can feel your pain; I hope you can feel my sympathy.
At times like these, no words are ever enough.
Just sitting beside you quietly.
This is probably why I've stayed at HP so long. You guys are awesome.
And MM, I'd love to know what those signs are. I'm not saying I'm convinced about what you and MoTown are saying (not with the night terrors she's having... seems like sleep is more miserable than waking), but I'm curious and, to be frank, always hoping to be convinced.
I don't know very much to say, except that many of my friends have died this past year and it has been a shock and a sadness each time; all my family is long-gone for years. I am sorry for your grandmother's memory loss and especially the night terrors. I never met any of my grandparents, so you are blessed to be with her and she blessed to be visited by you, for if God is anywhere, he is in the going of people to be with those who are ill and dying to offer comfort and companionship.
A great writing woman I know is fighting a genetically based cancer right now that takes a year of frequent chemotherapy treatments, to be followed by other therapies. Her greatest joy is to see words from friends on Facebook, even if she is too tired to read many of them. I have to think that some part of your grandmother will always know that you are at her side and will always know this.
This may sound incredible, but a pastor told me that when he was 19 and visiting his grandmother in the hospital daily during the week of her death, he saw some signs of her transition that surprised him. She had been lethargic, but the last day, she woke up, and sat up and smiled with a most radiant expression on her face. She described scenes in Heaven to her grandson. It was not long before she was gone, but she died peacefully and with a smile on her face after a long and painful illness. I'm not saying that that will happen for your grandmother, but I am surely praying for those night terrors to end.
I hope you can feel comfort in knowing that your visits to her are important.
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