Death of My Grandmother (Part 2)

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….. I watched her fade before my eyes. The woman whose raucous laughter filled our house, now lay mumbling quietly to herself. She called on the names of ancestors long passed. I saw the fear in her eyes, not fear for herself, but for all the tasks she felt she had left incomplete. I saw the move from the bustling, busy cook, to the tired, shaking hand that could no longer hold a light cup of water. I remember what if felt like, to place my hands on her still chest. I remember the fear I felt, the disbelief that she was really gone. I remember the defeated look of my aunt as she saw her slipping away before our eyes. I remember the calm with which my mother folded gran’s lifeless arms in the position she once loved. I can still feel the bitter sweet irony flooding through my body as I saw the belated efforts of paramedics to revive her. I can still feel the sadness as I watch the undertakers roll her body away, the blue cloth bag looking too still, a reminder that there lay an empty shell, not the woman who spent her all for those around her.

The day I returned to work, I sat on the edge of tears. Controlled, but grieving. When my boss mentioned something about the death, an image emerged unbidden. I saw the future, our cold stove, where we once cooked together, only a summer ago, now covered in empty loveless pots. It was that moment in which I wanted to cry the most.I remember the amusement I felt at the thought of having two funerals. One in this foreign, familiar home, another in the warmth of my homeland.

I sit in the funeral, watching the images of her life waltz slowly across the screen. The impish girl high up in the tree, the young headmistress laughing contentedly with her friend, the sweet smile of her newly married soul, the gigantic laugh caught mid-shot, as we celebrate her 75th birthday. I look at the shell in the casket, and I understand. This is not the end. This was her time. Her chance to rest. Her moment to sleep, relieved from the pain she never spoke of. It’s a small comfort at the time, but we all know. The disease eating her from the inside, can hurt her no more.

It is not the second funeral that offers the finality. It is not the image of the stones closing around her casket. It is the memory of my aunt breaking down in tears, as she tries to begin her speech. It is the memory of my cousin, hugging his father, face in his chest, as he tries to hide his tears. It is the silence that now lies, as the empty spot on her bed remains. It is the sight of her empty chair, as we unconsciously glance at its emptiness. It is the sight of all her clothing, some yet untouched, as we empty out the draws. It is the feeling of loss, as I smell her laundered sweater, the one she wore when she was admitted to the hospital. It is the feel of her palamino, as I rub  it between my fingers. It is the sight of her lovely pictures, as they face me on the wall.

Kadeen Nichelle Oksana Waldron

Thursday, June 14, 2012.

Part One

Death of My Grandmother (Part 1)

Such a normal Sunday afternoon for me it had been. As usual, I had woken up extremely late on my Sunday “morning” flow. It was probably about 12: 30 in the afternoon. I had this massively pounding headache. It hurt so badly to open my eyes. It was like something was in my head just yanking on my eyes, while hammering the poor walls of my skull as I unwittingly rattled my brain. Exaggeration to you, agony to me. My mother had woken me up with her pleasant tirade about my uncaring, lazy nature. What can I say? Weekends are the “drop-where-you-are” kind of days to me. With my usual, stubborn, “teen -angst” face I opened the door and faced her. How much of it did I really hear? Umm, definitely not the amount that an objective individual such as myself  should have paid attention to.

Frustrations in our household had been pulling and tugging from all sides. My grandmother’s illness had put everyone more on edge than we normally were. With an acknowledging nod, I returned to the room, grabbed the laundry basket and lifted it into the living room. Before I could escape into the refuge of our room (mine and gran’s), I was once again harangued with wonderful words of…peace. -_- The command came forth to put the laundry detergents in order since my uncle(in-law) had been kind enough to let us use their washer/dryer. With my task complete, I practically sprinted back to our room, shut the door and zoned into one of my favourite shows (Charmed) ignoring the murderous migraine.

Somehow between getting comfortable and completely blanking out the world, it had become 6 p.m. I think it might have been 6:30. I don’t read time quite well on a Sunday afternoon. Rushing out, I noticed that my mother had already disappeared with her basket. Grabbing mine, I inched along the stairs, feeling slightly embarrassed about facing my family after being such a bum. I smiled unabashedly at my aunt, and uncles, hovering between mild disgrace, and amused disinterest. Hauling my basket away from the light chatter of the room, I descended to the basement. I won’t bore you with further details of my laundry habits. Task semi-completed, I ascended and entered into the room that had become my gran’s room upon her return from the hospital.

 It troubled me to see her so different. There was no longer that teasing smile on her face. Or a wink at one of the secret jokes we shared. Instead, there she lay, barely moving. Struggling to breathe on her own. The drone of the oxygen machine, adding somber background music to a day filled with unforeseen circumstances. Not wanting to dwell on the issue, I quickly disappeared to our upper chambers, submerging myself in the world of the Charmed sisters. Of course, mother dearest had another detailed rant to add to my poor ears. Sprinting downstairs again, I barely noticed how dark it had become, thinking only of the angry words that wanted to pour out of my mouth. Another glance at my sleeping grandmother pulled me into the room. Her sister sat in a chair, silently observing from a world of her own. How could I not notice that change? Was I avoiding it? Me? The realist? The born cynic? I leaned over, placing my hand on gran’s chest. Her laboured breathing could be heard above the drone of the oxygen machine. My other hand caressed her head gently.

“Gran? Granny? Granny?” The most she could utter in response was a choked off moan. Somehow, this time around seemed worse than other days. No mumbling, no struggling, no drifting between sleep and wake, just struggling breaths. Edging away from the bed, I went into the hall. Everyone just looked so defeated. With my usual nonchalant manner, I asked, ” Isn’t there any way that we can wake her? Can’t we take her to the hospital? She sounds like she can barely breathe.” My aunt and uncle were trying to contact the hospice service so that they could transfer her to the hospital. With one last glance in gran’s direction, I returned to our room. Once again, the darling Charmed ones possessed my attention. My opium against the present reality I assume. This time, I was the one who pulled myself away, not the grating voice of my mother’s call. It was time to get the last of the laundry. I rushed down the stairs. This time, I stopped in the room first. There she lay, machine silent. Chest still. My mother had crossed gran’s arms in the position she loved when she sat in her chair. I watched uncertainly, assimilating the scene. Once the words, “Elese, you fought well.” fell from my mother’s lips, I could feel my heart sink. It literally felt like it just sank into my stomach. I didn’t know what to think, how to feel, what to do. The sight of my granny lying so still, her lips parted open in that expression of death just sat in my mind. Not an image of the strong woman I knew, but the still body of a tired, old woman.

I went to check the dryer. My cousins looked so normal. I didn’t know what I should tell them. Gathering my laundry, I glanced at the television. Such carefree jokes and pranks flew across the sets of So Random. I laughed with them, took my laundry and left. All that I could think of was going up with the last of the laundry, taking a shower, and calling my best friend on Skype. Everything that I could think of doing was complete. Freshly bathed, and comfortably dressed, I could now think clearly. I texted the news to my friends, then ran back downstairs. I stuffed the laundry haphazardly into my basket. Another example of my careless nature. Then hurried up the stairs, trying to keep my cousins from coming up and seeing the sight of our lost matriarch. I don’t think I mentioned that this time before going for the laundry I didn’t go into the room. I hesitated. I was afraid that I might have pronounced her dead prematurely, or that maybe she really was dead. Sigh, stupid laundry. Yet it played such a pivotal role. I ran up the stairs, making it to the second floor, but my pounding heart couldn’t be stilled. I dropped the basket and ran back down. The room called me. I had to be sure. I entered. I could hear the machine running. I could see her looking so peaceful. Gran looked asleep again. Mouth closed neatly, eyes tightly shut. I had to be sure. I glided closer. Standing beside my mother, I looked at gran. I laid my hand across her chest. Searching. Searching. Searching for the rise and fall. Listening for those laboured breaths. There was nothing. I don’t know how to describe the feeling for you. Certain of the facts. I once again sprinted up the stairs. This time the laundry made it all the way into the upstairs apartment. I looked at our bedroom (gran and mine) feeling disoriented. Did I turn off the light before I went downstairs? Did I leave the door open like that? I don’t know why I suddenly felt afraid. Alone. There was no one else there. I struggled with my fear. I was embarrassingly close to running for my mother and asking her to come up with me. Then I took a breath, silently berating myself for all the nights I had spent watching Charmed in the dark. I walked toward the room, turning the lights on as I moved along. There I stood in front of the open door. The laptop gave off an eery light in the darkened room. Not much light came in from the street. I tried the switch, no light appeared. For a split second, my heart dropped for the second time that night. Then I realised…I was using the wrong switch. That was the closet’s switch. I quickly tried the other switch. My unconscious call to God slowly died down. I sat on my bed, looking at my phone. The responses from my friends had been so quick. I replied, feeling slightly amused. Now they were in my usual position, struggling to find the right words to convey their sympathies for my loss. It was then I realised that like I once secretly thought to myself, there are no real words that can truly meet the needs of such a situation. The closest thing that can ever work, is “I’m there for you.” I think seeing those words, really did almost make me cry.

Part Two