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Excerpts from My Bereaved Mind...

Today, I can’t shake the thought that Granny died alone. I hope she knew how much we loved her. My uncle, who visited Granny everyday, hadn’t been able to get to the nursing home because he was recovering from knee surgery. My mom was in Dallas recovering from the seizure she’d had in December. Meanwhile, I was in California struggling to keep it together. I don’t know how long it had been since she’d had visitors. And I know how much Granny liked seeing her family. I just keep thinking that maybe Granny thought we were too busy for her and that we’d be better off if she were dead. Even though my rational mind is aware that our days are numbered and we don’t have any control of our deaths, this is the delusion of my bereaved mind.

I remember when we first put Granny in the nursing home. She was 95, and had been in the hospital for potassium poisoning. The doctors released her directly into Heritage Plaza because she was too weak and sick to go home. If you’ve never had to commit someone to convalescence, be thankful. It was one of the hardest decisions we, as a family, ever had to make. You always think that you’ll be able to care for your parents or grandparents the way they cared for you, but sometimes it just gets to be too much. In addition, we felt like Granny would do better with professional care.

Granny was in really bad shape at first, but she soon pulled through. I had come down from New York, and on my last day there, she got us in the living room of the place and chewed us out. She didn’t understand the severity of her condition. Instead, she thought my uncle was too sick to care for her. She said, “If you couldn’t care for me, you could’ve just told me instead of putting me in here.” To say we were torn up would be a gross understatement. My mom and my uncle tried to explain to my grandmother that they didn’t do it out of spite – she really needed to be there. The doctors had said that if she made some progress, she’d be able to come home.

Meanwhile, my brother and I cried. I went to the bathroom, and he went outside. After I composed myself, I went to him. He was in tears because this wasn’t his first time dealing with an elderly relative who was ill. We have different fathers, and he’s experienced a lot of loss with his other family. His statement was that no one ever gets out of the nursing home alive, and he felt like this was the last stop on the way to the grave. I tried to reassure him that our grandmother, being the fighter she was, would soon be home. Even though I didn’t know for sure, I had to hold on to something.

After Granny’s initial outburst, she began to understand why she was in Heritage Plaza. I think she even learned to enjoy herself. When she got her electric wheelchair, she was able to mingle with other elderly people – something she hadn’t been able to do at home. Her mind was still clear, but not as sharp as it used to be. She called her chair her “car,” her room was her “house,” and the living room area was “the city.” Once, when my niece and I were visiting her, she said she was going to “the city” to see what was going on. I said, “Oh we’ll go, too.” She looked at us and said, “How will y’all get there?” In her mind, we didn’t have any transportation.

Over time, Granny’s body started breaking down. She was diagnosed with diabetes after she started falling asleep while driving her car in the halls. Her blood sugar was too low. Later on, she developed congestive heart failure, and her kidneys started to fail. She was in a lot of pain, and the doctors had done all they could do. We put her on hospice care so that she’d be as comfortable as possible when the inevitable happened. When she finally gave up the ghost on Wednesday, March 5th, 2008, she was tired and she’d suffered a lot.

I know that Granny’s in a better place. I know that she’s not suffering anymore. I know she’s probably having a ball with all her long-lost relatives. In my rational mind, these things make sense. I realize how blessed my family has been to have Granny for almost 97 years. However, as I struggle to negotiate my life without her guidance and love, the rational doesn’t matter. All I want to do is climb in bed with her. If I could do that, I’d stay with her. And maybe, just maybe, she wouldn’t die.


Angie said…
Wow, most of the details in this post, I didn't know. From the "potassium poisoning" to the "car and the city." If I had some tears to share, I would've cried.
Beautiful and heartfelt.

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