My grandma was two months short of her ninety-seventh birthday, when she took her final breath yesterday. The dementia had seen her deteriorate over the last half dozen years – slowly at first, but then quite rapidly towards the end – so she hasn’t been the woman I loved for a long time. That person had already moved on, and I have had to make my peace with that.
Still, it’s difficult for me to let go of someone I have known my whole life, no matter how diminished she was when that final curtain was drawn, and no matter how much I wanted it to be over for her. I have wished for her to pass on peacefully in her sleep many times. Is that a little selfish? Sure. I own that. But that pain; that emptiness; that confusion. Those moments when there was just nothing behind her eyes, which were all too frequent in the last few months. She didn’t deserve that – few people do.
On Friday I had been advised that she likely only had a few days left, so I went to visit her yesterday afternoon with the intention of saying goodbye. She was asleep – the doctors had given her a drug to calm her down – and she didn’t look much like the grandma I had seen even just a couple of weeks earlier. She was thin, gaunt, and curled up in the foetal position, and she never acknowledged my presence, but I sat there and I cried for all the good years and the good times we had had just the same.
As I left her side an hour later, after kissing her on the forehead one final time, I knew I would never see her again and that I was just waiting for that phone call. I didn’t expect it quite so soon, but just five hours later she was gone.
But my grandma’s death isn’t about letting her go, or putting her in the rear view mirror. It’s more about making sure I remember the person she was, when she was vibrant and full of life, and about treating those times with the respect they deserve. What she became in the last six years is not that person, and I won’t be remembering her that way. Dementia may have taken my grandma from me, but it won’t rob me of my memories.
I miss you grandma. Always.