Saturday, August 1. The next phone call came.
This time it was my father. My grandmother's body was shutting down. They called the family in. She had gotten really bad overnight, but had stabilized a little bit that morning. But, they knew that the stabilization would not last.
We were in the middle of getting Grace's 6 month portraits done. We were told we had a little time, so we finished up the portraits as I made frantic phone calls to various family members. Then, the MIL had us run an errand for her on our way home to pack up before I made the trip back to my hometown. But, that's aside from the story.
J did not come with me this time. He had a firefighter class and I told him not to miss it. I knew from the situation that we would be there a long time. Grace & I made the trek alone.
The day before, my grandmother may have had a stroke. One side of her body seemed paralyzed and she could not swallow her food. She was too weak for them to do any tests to verify this, but she was exhibiting classic stroke signs. She had been bedridden for some time and sometimes would not speak. So, no one could say for sure exactly what happened or simply find out from her how she was feeling. Earlier in life, she had objected to tube feeding, so we knew that was not an option. She was not going to pull through this time.
When I walked in the door of the rest home, my aunt greeted me. "She's waiting for you."
The family gathered at her bed. The nurse said that her body was shutting down, but she was fighting it hard. She was probably afraid to die. They told us to assure her.
We were there for hours. She would float in and out of consciousness. By this time I was well versed in the breaths per minute measurements. Her numbers would go up and down.
The lobby of the rest home, much like two weeks before, was the family's central gathering station. It was hard to get all of us in my grandmother's room. We ate meals there. We talked there. We completed many, many sudoku puzzles. We even played cards (this was in honor of my grandmother - she loved cards). Grace provided the entertainment again.
Night came and the staff encouraged all of us to go home. They said it would be a long night. Reluctantly, I did. I knew Grace would be more comfortable there, and that there was no more that I could do.
Early the next morning, my dad called. My grandmother was gone.
Two weeks from the day my grandfather passed.
Their perfect love story ended that way. She wouldn't go on without him. After 68 years of marriage, we should have expected it would happen that way. We will never know for sure if she realized what was going on when he died. She was in the room when that happened, but they pulled curtains around her bed so she would not see his body. I am sure in my heart that she knew.
I found out later that my grandmother would worsen after everyone left. The staff called her children back, and then she would stabilize. Then when they left her room, she declined again. She fought until the very end. She did not want her family to see her take her last breath.
We made arrangements identical to my grandfather's. Same locations. Same flowers. Same album surfing for photos for her slideshow. Same trips back and forth for a week. Same family dinners. Same memory-sharing sessions. Same pastor with a comforting message. Same cousin with a eulogy. Same aunt with a song.
I lost it walking from the church to the cemetery. The ground was still raw from my grandfather's burial. Again, my sunglasses hid my tears.
I prayed a lot that week. I begged and pleaded with God to keep my loved ones safe. I cannot go to any more funerals for a while.