Sunday, August 16, 2009

to die in our house

I'm back; kind of.

The last few weeks have been full up of life-changing experiences and incredible volumes of prismatic glimpses into the cycles of living and dying and living some more going on all around us.



After my last post, k's grandma got really sick. She had been starving herself for quite a few weeks and then her small, 83 pound body started to crash out. On July 28 she was rushed to the hospital from the skank-ass nursing home she was living (if you can call it that) in. She had suffered multiple heart-attacks (ya, those heart attacks somehow slipped past the nursing home staff) and was not able to talk very well any longer.

The short of it is that we brought her home on Friday, July 31 to die at our house. And her final hours in our living room were a gift that will linger long on our hearts. Hospice is an amazing organization. They got a bed delivered to our house asap and oxygen and then grandma sterling was brought via ambulance. When they took her off fluids at the hospital her blood pressure dropped to almost nil and R (an amazing friend of the family who waited with grandma at the hospital while we went home to prepare a dying space in the house for her) did not think she would make the ambulance ride. But she did.

And then we moved her into our front window and the late afternoon light shone over her dwindling body. Her skin was so translucent we could see her bones and her beautiful blue veins--straight skeleton lines and undulating blue rivers trapped beneath her soon to go back to the earth flesh.



R came over to our house to be with us and grandma until other people could be there. I cannot express the gratitude that surfaces in my heart when I think about R and her kindness. 7 years ago when K's mama was dying, R was there by her side and by K's family's side. She is a bulwark--she brings strength and compassion in her shining shadow--she is good and sets for me the example of ideal friendship and loyalty.

We knew at this time that grandma did not have many hours left, so we rallied K's dad to come down from up north, where he runs the resort in the summer and is busy beyond belief, to say his goodbye. He had planned to come on sunday, but we knew she would be gone by then, so he jumped in the car and started driving on Friday evening.

All of this is still so fresh with me. It is hard for me to write about it. I've tried getting it out on paper, but without real results. So bare with me.

We stared at grandma as she lay dying in our living room. It all felt so right and okay. Her life had been long and full. I could not help thinking how the miscarriage happened for a reason. Instead of carrying a new life into this world in the month of August, we were able to help shepherd this old life out of this world. If I had been pregnant, this would not have happened. I would have been about to burst with child. In contrast, we were able to open our home and hearts to a woman who had been the catalyst for the life k and I live together. Without grandma sterling there would never have been a KK.

I watched as the sun dappled brightness over grandma's gaunt and wrinkled yet smooth and beautiful all at once cheeks. I thought about the last of the vitamin D that she soaked into her still moving and living cells. I thought about how one day I will no longer see or soak up the sun. I marveled at the kindness of friends. A cooked for us and sat with us and stayed by our sides. T and R came over and kept vigil for a time. T sang the loveliest of songs to our dear grandma and grandma raised her eyebrows to let us know she heard the melodies and the words of love and assurance.

K's dad arrived at midnight and he watched over grandma with us throughout the night. The mother of his dear, loving, and no-longer-with-us wife now lay before him passing from this world and I could not help but think about all of the sadness that must have crept gently into his gut as he rocked in the rocking chair of his brother who also had left this world while still so young.

We stayed up through the night, sleeping an hour here and then there. We waited for grandma to take her last breath. Her breathing was so inconsistent and shallow; we wondered when it might cease and if we would notice.

Around 9 in the morning K's dad left to go get rest and K and I stayed beside grandma. K had a powerful and lovely morning with her grandma. She called on her ancestors who we could feel hovering in the room. I burned sweet grass around the outside of the house (we did not want to blow up the oxygen tanks so I stayed outside). The tender smell of the grass lifted with the gentle breeze through the windows. Around noon K's aunt came back to the house. And then around 1:00 grandma took her last breath.

We stayed with her body for two more hours. The hospice nurse came to pronounce her dead and get everything wrapped up (like disposal of morphine into cat litter, etc) She told us that we could roll a towel and push it under grandma's chin to keep her mouth closed, so I did this. We did not wash her body and I regret this, but I do not think K's aunt could have handled it. And then the cremation men came in a big, blue, unmarked van. The one man was tall and wide with a white, bushy handlebar mustache. He was gentle and his sidekick was a nondescript man with a small smile and kind hands. Their short-sleeved collar shirts were worn thin and I wondered what their armpits might smell like. K and I stood side by side--K's aunt went into the backyard and they lifted grandma from the bed onto the removal gurney. They covered her face with a sheet and then with the maroon, terrycloth-like gurney cover (the same color was used when a different set of collar shirted men took K's mom's body from the house). And then they took her 96 year old body from the house and set her in the back of the van.

K wept then. We stood on the porch and I held her and she wept. And I held her more.
And then we went inside and K asked me to get the empty bed out of the window. But I could only move the mattress and pillows, so I did.

The last two weeks I have been processing all of this and dreaming of grandma sterling often. There is so much more, but for now I will close.

8 comments:

jessie said...

This post was so powerful and moving. I'm very sorry for the loss. You honored her in a wonderful way and gave her an amazing place to spend her last moments.

vee said...

I'm so sorry to read that KK's grandma died. And that her death stirred up so many ghosts of others gone before. That you were able to have her with you is a blessing and an act of love I hope someone affords me when it's my time to go back to the earth.

starrhillgirl said...

This, my friend, is an amazing gift. I hope you and kk think of her gandma everyday.

Zoe the Wonder Dog said...

I cried like crazy as I read this post... It makes me want to die at your house too. Not anytime soon, mind you, but someday. Hugs to you both. You did good.

tiff said...

This post brought tears to my eyes having just lost my own Nana, 96 years old too.

What a blessing you gave her to be right there with her, at the end. She was obviously so loved and cherished.

Thinking of you both and sending love during this time.

mrsbasement said...

Whenever you write something wonderful, I'm just going to quote it in the comment section. I have to move on from commenting over and over about what a good writer you are and how great your blog is and how you write about all the best things. So here:

"And then the cremation men came in a big, blue, unmarked van. The one man was tall and wide with a white, bushy handlebar mustache. He was gentle and his sidekick was a nondescript man with a small smile and kind hands. Their short-sleeved collar shirts were worn thin and I wondered what their armpits might smell like. K and I stood side by side--K's aunt went into the backyard and they lifted grandma from the bed onto the removal gurney. They covered her face with a sheet and then with the maroon, terrycloth-like gurney cover (the same color was used when a different set of collar shirted men took K's mom's body from the house). And then they took her 96 year old body from the house and set her in the back of the van."

(year long reader, commenting under a new account.)

the injector said...

thanks for the love folks. it means a lot. i know i do not know many of you in real life day to dayness, but your kindness and support is helpful and good nonetheless. life is so curvy it amazes me more and more at every bend.

jay said...

i'm so sorry too and i think you're both so wonderful. sending lots of love xxxx