Friday, January 2, 2015
Grandma Gail passed away on New Years Day, 2015.
At 92 years-old, she was a woman that I had begun to think of as indestructible. A number of things come to mind when reminiscing about her... I laugh thinking back to her snapping at all 18 grandchildren as we took turns flipping the ceiling fan on and tossing wrapping paper into it during Christmas time. I can't tell you the number of times I have tried making eggs over easy in the morning, only to scrape them off the pan and into the garbage disposal because they just never quite taste as good as they do in Grandma's kitchen. I remember her hugging me with teary eyes one Sunday morning and thanking me for the wedding thank-you she had received in the mail from Kelli and I. I smile thinking back to how happy we were that she was able to be at our home for Charly's first birthday. I love how Charly has to carefully place all the ornaments Grandma Gail has made her on our Christmas tree because they are some of her favorites.
When Alzheimer's began to take Grandpa Warren's mind, I was a college freshman and I stubbornly refused to see him in that state. I had my picture of who Grandpa was and I didn't want his Alzheimer's to confuse that. The fact that I could have visited him a few more times before he died, but selfishly kept my distance, still eats at me today.
When Dad called on New Years Eve to tell me Grandma had taken a turn for the worse, my gut instinct was to stay at home. She was the Energizer Bunny. I didn't want to see her lying in that hospital bed. Dying. That's not how I wanted to remember her. But I knew I had to go. Even for just a short while. I didn't want to make the same mistake I feel like I did with Grandpa.
It was a visit that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
She gave Taylor a hard time about getting married. She told stories about Grandpa buying her screwdrivers (the vodka and orange juice kind.) And after a while, with nearly a century-worth of stories on her mind, she just closed her eyes and said, "I have been so blessed."
She felt so blessed in that moment not just because of all the memories she was thinking back to, but because of all the family that was surrounding her, literally, in her hospital room. She looked right at me when I had entered the room and was surprised and happy that I was there, as she was with everyone she saw in her final few days.
Ironically, the image of her in her hospital bed that I was so scared of remembering, is now the image of her that I never want to forget. Our presence there, and her memories of us, made her feel blessed in her final moments, and that is an incredible, powerful feeling to hold onto.