Goodbye Grandma

Defining moments in our lives don’t happen every day. In fact over my forty-two years, I can count them on one hand – the usual graduation, marriage, birth of a child… Sometimes though, they come out of nowhere, seemingly unexpected and slap you in the face, forcing you to take notice.  I had one of those “what now?” moments earlier this week when I had the honor and privilege of being the last one with my grandmother on her very last night on earth.

Between the moment when my mother first called to tell me my 94-year-old grandmother had taken a turn for the worse and the time I arrived at her nurse home, I wondered how I’d handle being the only one there as my grandmother passed from this world to the next. As it happened my mother after great deliberation went on a much deserved vacation and was a good 18 hours away. Her other two siblings and the other grandchildren also lived many, many hours from my grandmother. I was the closet and only relative in the area. I didn’t hesitate and assured my mother that my grandmother would NOT die alone.  I resolved myself not to fall apart and to be strong for everyone – a role I’m not used to playing. I worried how I’d stay awake all night, but in the end the night passed quickly and I never tired.

My grandmother lay in her bed, her respirations fast and labored. She looked so tiny, so fragile, nothing like the grandmother I remembered from my childhood. I held her hand and talked to her letting her know I was there. She never squeezed my hand or looked in my eyes or spoke a word to me, but I know in my heart she knew I was with her. Through the night I sat at her bedside, listening to the oxygen machine and my grandma’s breathing. I prayed for her, I read a book, I fielded phone calls and emails from concerned relatives, and I waited. The nurses were wonderful and cared for her with respect and tenderness. Around  9 PM or so the hospice nurse came in to assess her. I thought just maybe my grandmother might be doing a little better and the call would be a false alarm, but no. The nurse told me that my grandmother was “actively dying” and most likely would not make it until morning. My mother wouldn’t make it back in time. At this realization my tears began to fall.

My grandmother and I weren’t especially close, but I loved her and have good memories. Memories of eating buttered toast cut into triangle in her warm kitchen, of sneaking into bed with her early in the morning and putting my cold feet between her legs to warm them, of the green and white polka dot hat she wore to Geauga Lake so we could always pick her out of the crowd.  She made it through the night into the early morning. Around nine the next morning she quietly took her last breath. At peace now, she suffered no more. She had a good life, a long life. I was glad I’d been there for her. Someday down the line, I hope my future granddaughter would do the same for me. Over the days after her death as I wait for the arrangements and our final goodbye, my own mortality stares me in the face.  It forces me to look back on my life and ahead to my future and settle back in the present. Life goes on. It’s up to me to take mine in the right direction.

My daughters are saddened by great-grandma’s death, but don’t seem to comprehend death yet. Does anyone really comprehend it? In fact, aren’t we all from the moment we’re born, actively dying?  My youngest wonders how grandma got to heaven, what she’s doing there and what she’s eating. She told her preschool teacher she got to go to a funeral and have a party with the enthusiasm of a five-year old going to the zoo. Both girls are excited about traveling to the city were my grandmother lived most of her life and where she’ll be put to rest. They’ve already packed their bags. The oldest wants to be sure the hotel has a pool. They’re excited to be alive. Yes, life does go on. And as a friend of mine pointed out to me earlier in the week, they have the right idea. And I think they do. Someday when it’s my turn to go, I hope my family says a quiet goodbye as I leave them behind and then goes on to party.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

Quest To Be a Morning Person

As I reflected on my need for more me-time to focus on achieving my goals and making my dreams come true, I determined I needed to carve out that time and take it back for myself. As I looked over my busy schedule, the answer became clear to me. As I know Santa won’t be bringing me any extra hours in my day nor will he be bringing the magic hand that automatically puts everything in its place that my youngest daughter imagined, the next best thing would for me to become a morning person.

I reflect on how wonderful it would be to wake up at 5:00 AM refreshed and ready to start my day. I would have two peaceful, wonderful hours all to myself to do whatever I wanted — no children, no husband, no phone calls or chores (that might wake someone up). In the early morning hours when everyone else was a sleep, I could work on my writing, edit my photos, do a little Wii Fit… The possibilities are endless. I could get so much accomplished with no interruptions.

The only problem? I am the snooze queen. I typically set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than I actually need to get up, just so I can push it at least twice. I am not going to let that little fact deter me though. I did a search on “becoming a morning person.” Believe or not I found hundreds of hits and quite a few good tips. Of all the articles I read there were three tips most sleep experts agreed on. 1. Go to bed at the same time every night by no later than 10, if possible. Even on weekends. That didn’t seem too hard.  I could do that. 2. Get up at the same time every morning. Even on weekends. I can do that too. Although, sleep-in Saturdays would be a thing of the past, it wouldn’t matter because I would love the morning anyway, right?  3. No snooze bars. None. You have to get up as soon as the alarm rings. Move the alarm across the room if you have too. Hmm. #3 is not so easy. I have been known to walk across the room to push the snooze and then get back in bed. But, this time however, I am determined. I am going to do this; I can do this. I won’t be long before I will be enjoying beautiful sunrises as I sip a hot cocoa and work on the latest revision of my book. Yes.

So, last night, I set my iPod touch for 5:00 AM. I was tucked into bed by 10:30 and asleep by 11:00 PM. I was only an hour off my goal, not bad. It seemed like my eyes had just closed and I’d nodded off to dreamland, when my alarm started to go off. I stumbled out of bed and went to turn it off, when I glanced at the other clock on my dresser. It read 2:00 AM. How could that be? What time is it anyway?  I checked the setting on my iPod. The timezone was set to auto-locate. For some odd reason, it thought I was in San Paulo where it was in fact 5:00 AM. I still had three more hours to sleep. Hurray I thought to myself. I turn autolocate off and selected the correct time zone. I went to the bathroom and then snuggled back under the covers and laid awake another 30 minutes until I finally feel back asleep.

Another five hours and fifteen minutes later I heard the keys in the door. My husband is on night shift this month and was just getting home. “Crap” I think to myself, what time is it? I glance at the clock and it reads 7:15! Great now I overslept. I check the alarm settings, somehow in my grogginess at 2:00 AM, I turned the alarm off. Sigh. The mad morning rush is off again (while my husband is home from work, he is busy doing well I’m not sure what. I try not to get angry at my perceived unfairness in life (as in why do I always have to get three people ready in the morning and he only has to get one ready?) as life isn’t fair you know. So, I wake the girls up. Shower, dress, hair, make up, brush teeth pack lunches, help the little one get dressed, sign the older one’s school planner, find the missing shoes and library books…I manage to get it all done and no one missed the bus and I’m on time for work. Success. Everything is good.

Tomorrow is another day and my alarm is set for 5 AM and the time zone is set to Eastern. I’ll be a morning person yet. Zip-pity Doo-dah…