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jenni goes gently – month seven

August 27, 2010


My 79 year-old Granny is dying. She is a pretty passive person, never rocked the boat, married and buried two husbands. My mom is an only child and has bore the brunt of caring for her the last few years.
Three weeks ago she was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. Now, she’s in kidney failure, has received 12 units of blood during her stay and is lucid for an hour a day, at the most. She never wanted aggressive treatment and, thankfully, has made that fact well known. Today as a family, we made the difficult choice to put her on Hospice care. Tomorrow she’ll be able to move back into her assisted living apartment and will die without pain, surrounded by friends and family. The million-dollar question is when it will happen.
My mother thinks it’d be really helpful is there was a timeline and we could plan this things out like you’d plan a trip to the beach and so do I, for that matter. As an RN I’ve had the honor, and it is an honor, to be with many families as their loved one passes and it never happens quickly. She will go in her own time, days, maybe weeks, from the time she is discharged. This is not the answer anyone wants to hear but it’s the truth.
This period of waiting for my Granny to die is a space in-between, a pause in the action, a time in-between the regular course of life and the painful time that comes after someone dies. It’s a gift for my family and I’m thankful, especially for my Mom who’s not always had the closest relationship with her mother, that we’ve been granted this extra time in-between to start to reconcile uncomfortable feelings. In this sad time it truly does make me feel better and give me comfort that she doesn’t have to die, alone, in a hospital room that she shares with a total stranger.
When she is brought home tomorrow we will surround her, give her whatever she wants to eat (in her case, anything with sugar), talk about old stories and savor the moments, not knowing when the last one will come. I know it was a tough decision for my mother. She has given my Granny everything she can to live well and now she is giving her the means to go into the next world peacefully. These next few weeks will be terribly difficult, no doubt. But this last period of waiting will help us all transition to a time when she’s not going to be here. We can start the grieving process now even as we remember the good times while enjoying an ice cream cake and a regular soda with Granny.


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