If you follow us on Twitter, you may have read that my grandmother’s health has taken a very bad turn. Her cancer returned with terrible force and swiftness, and now we are holding our vigil and trying to keep things together as best we can. I dread the phone ringing. I don’t think it will be long now.
I got the news about her health this past Thursday, and by the next day it had already gotten much worse. I had originally bought a last-minute plane ticket right after I first heard the news to fly up last Saturday, but her deteriorating condition was too much for me to wait that long. I couldn’t take the chance of waiting that extra day. I threw some luggage in the car, left Mary with the kids, and drove as fast as I could to get there. I arrived just as she was going to bed that night. I hadn’t seen her in about four months. I nearly fainted. I just wasn’t prepared to see her so frail.
As I should have realized, though, her body is frail, but her spirit is irrepressible. There she was telling jokes and picking on people and being the person I’ve always known even while she was in pain and struggling to do even the most basic things. It was a lesson in strength and dignity that I’ll never forget.
In celebration of her 90th birthday in 2008, I posted “What My Hero Taught Me About Parenting an Autistic Child”. A few people encouraged me to share it with her, but I never wrote here what happened after I did. The short version is that before she went into surgery earlier last year after her cancer first started, I had my sister give her a printed copy of it. She said she read it several times a day when she was in the hospital that first time, and most days since. There’s no way I can put into words – particularly without bawling my eyes out – what that means to me. And it was the last thing we talked about before I left to come back home Monday. In all likelihood, that post will be our final shared memory. I draw some measure of peace from knowing that she will go to her eternal rest knowing how much she has meant to me.
I will have much more to say about her and my visit up there in future posts. Right now, the emotions are too strong and raw for me to keep writing. More than anything, I just want her last days to be as comfortable as possible where she feels surrounded by our love.