A few weeks ago I went to see my grandma. I hadn’t seen her in a very long time and ever since she went to the hospital to remove many of her organs due to colon cancer, I was “prepped” for the fact that she would look different. As a person who had once worked at a funeral home and dealt with prearrangement paperwork for the elderly, I thought so highly of my ability to be mentally constrained. There were things that needed to be done and I had traveled down to help specifically because of my ability to stay rational in life altering situations.
Of course, that all ended at the foot of her bed.
It wasn’t her appearance, her inability to get around or even the slow ebb of her memory as the cancer proceeded, it was the overwhelming loneliness that hit me like a cast iron skillet to the head. WHAM. And just like that I lost any sense of myself. In many ways it was like being possessed by a ghost, one that I wanted to willingly take from her.
I held her bible paper thin hands that were becoming almost translucent and imagined what it would look like if that was how we left the world, slowly fading from our exoskeletons. I had no idea how she even found the strength on those small bones to shift herself around. There were all these words that were said, mostly sad words, but all I can really bring to mind are her hands holding tightly to mine own and the overwhelming sadness in feeling that I would have to let them go again.
I promised her that she wouldn’t be alone anymore. That this horrifying loneliness would leave with me and in its place would be a friend of her own that would take care of her. I promised her family in the coming days and pictures in the mail since she had lost so much in the digital revolutions. Then I had to stand up with all that weight, all the suffering and leave her lying there.
It was the single worst moment of my life.
In the following days people came and she wasn’t so lonely. She told them I “swooped through the house like a fairy” and her happy days were back, for now. Her friend arrived that my sister and I had found, an in-home nurse to be her constant companion and we’re working on affording that currently through a GoFundMe Medical Campaign until we get things situated with state assistance; so we made good on our promise.
The whole thing left me so drained and lost for days, though. The drive was long and caused me a lot of pain and shortly after I got back I caught a bad cold. These three things compiled one on top of another and I just got really depressed. I lost myself in my own world and tried time and again to climb my way out and it is unfortunate that it took me so long. Things still linger, but it isn’t an easy time and I guess that’s to be expected. I started physical therapy for the pain, fought off most of the cold and am pushing myself to work every day.
Sometimes I still see her in my minds eye laying there, smiling at me from across the room on her bed waiting. You’d think most people in her situation would be waiting for the pain to end, waiting for a day they could act a bit more like themselves or waiting to move on, but not her. She only waits for someone to talk to; someone to take a bit of the loneliness away from her so she can hang on.
So I carry it in me now. I carry it and hang on too.