What I am about to share is pretty detailed, and may be disturbing to some people.
Please only read the rest of this if you want to.
I actually saw my grandmother die today. It was quite a unique experience... one that I certainly never want to repeat.
God has certainly had a very large part in what happened today... particularly making sure that people were in the right place at the right time, and helping us all get through this is a very positive way.
moosical and I got to the hospital this afternoon shortly after 13:00. The first thing that we both noticed is that Grandma seemed so much more peaceful and comfortable than she had been on Friday night. Her heart rate was really steady... ranging between 75 and 90, and peaking at 102 at one point whilst we were there.
The nursing staff had to turn her a couple of times whilst we were there, to make sure that she didn't get sore or uncomfortable. During one of the "turns" we decided to go to the Wexham Park cafe to get a drink. We spoke at some depth about many things. When we returned to Grandma's room, we noticed that the heart monitor had been disconnected, but didn't really think anything of it. We later realised that there was little point having it connected as we were really only waiting for one thing.
Anyway, it came to about 17:30, Mum and Avis were trying to decide whether to stay for longer, or go home. Mum was obviously worried about Kay, and needed to spend some time with her. moosical and I offered to stay for a while longer. They accepted the offer and left just before 18:00. moosical suggested that she go and get some cans from the drinks machine in the main hospital, so she went to get them. I stayed, and just watched Grandma. I started to notice that her breathing was much more relaxed - and slower - than it had been all day, so I started getting concerned. Then, she stopped breathing. I called the nurse immediately, who came in, looked at Grandma, looked at me and said, "I think you'd better call your mum back." I ran outside and called Avis (knowing that Mum was driving) and simply said "Avis, please come back." I went back to Grandma and the nurse explained to me what had happened, because at this point, I did not know. Basically, Grandma had entered a stage of breathing (I cannot remember the medical name for it) where basically her body was preparing to shut down. She *was* still breathing, but it was very shallow, and every so often she would take a large breath. But the nurse explained to me that this meant that the time was very close.
- I thank God that I was the only one there when she stopped breathing. I'm not sure that Mum, Avis or Caroline would have been able to cope with seeing that if they had been there. I remember thinking at the time that God's timing was impeccable.
Caroline came back shortly after the nurse had explained things. She started to hand me my can of Diet Coke, then stopped. I think the look on my face explained a lot more than she perhaps was expecting. I explained to her what the nurse had told me. We both sat down and watched Grandma in silence, hoping that Mum and Avis would make it back in time.
- Mum told me later on, that when I had phoned Avis, and they were turning back, that she said, "Please let this be it."
The waiting was the hardest part of the last few days, I think that this has really been a relief for everyone.
Mum and Avis arrived back about 2 minutes later (literally only about 6 or 7 minutes since they left!) and the nurse explained things to Avis whilst I spoke to Mum. Then, it was only a matter of waiting. Grandma died at 18:20, very peacefully and without distress. Mum, Avis and Caroline were very strong and we all spent the next 5 or so minutes comforting each other. Yes, there were tears - both seen and unseen. Avis went out to break the news to Paul (who then told Kay) and Sue (my older sister). Kay, we were later told, didn't react to the news at all... almost acting as if she didn't want to listen to it. Sue was incredibly upset.
- It is my belief that everyone is put on this earth for specific purposes. I think that during this whole time that I have discovered one of mine. I have been able to stay very strong (in my own opinion) throughout the whole of this, and yes it has been very draining for me. I have not yet cried. Yes, I shed tears, but I think that was more in response to my family crying than anything else. Caroline has been asking me regularly for the last few days if I am all right. I have tried not to answer her, because I was afraid that I would break down. I have abandoned my own feelings in order to support others. It's just the way I am... I can't help it.
On the way home from the hospital, I drove quite slowly... I mean to the speed limits. Caroline will tell you that I don't usually have much respect for speed limits, but I do not drive dangerously. I don't know... for some reason I didn't feel the need to rush anywhere. My voice has been very low this evening, and I seem to have taken much more care in some of the things that I have done.
- I know that most of what I have said here seems to congratulate myself on how wonderful I have been today, but that is not what this is about. This is about how certain events change the way that people think. I have never seen anyone die before. Please don't misunderstand what this post means.
When we got back to Mum's house, Mum was speaking to Kay. This time Kay had realised what had happened, and had broken down in tears. That was very difficult to witness. Kay is almost 13 years old, and she knows a lot about life - Mum teaches her children well <s> - but nothing could have prepared her for the death of her last remaining grandparent. She spent most of the rest of the evening in the den watching TV. I went up and spoke to her later on and she told me that she didn't want to think about it. I totally respected that. I mean, who does want to think about the passing of a close relative? I explained to her that this is something that is going to be on our minds for a very long time yet, and particularly this coming fortnight. Fortunately (I believe), Kay is on a Guide camp from tomorrow morning, so she can have the time away from home to think about things, whilst we sort out the more practical arrangements here. Bless her, she's a wonderful kid.
Mum, Paul and Avis, have been in contact with close friends and family this evening, breaking the sad news. Not an easy job, but it had to be done.
Caroline and I got back here about an hour ago, and I've been typing this since we arrived. I need some sleep to sort my head out, then I can think a bit more clearly tomorrow.
For anyone who has read this far, I thank you for taking the time to try and understand the events of the last few days.
I will miss Grandma... there's no doubting that. I never took the time to visit my Nan before she died, but I was one of the last two people to see my Nan's husband (my stepgrandfather on my dad's side) the night before he died. I have always regretted not being there for my Nan. As weird as this may sound to some people, I actually felt very privileged and honoured to have been present at my Grandmothers final breath.
Whilst I do mourn her death, I also celebrate her life.
She is now cradled in the arms of God... and I know that she is now in peace.
By Bishop Brent
A ship sails and I stand watching
till she fades on the horizon,
and someone at my side says,
"She is gone."
Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large as when I saw her...
The diminished size and total loss of sight
is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
"She is gone,"
there are others who are watching her coming,
and other voices take up a glad shout,
"Here she comes!"
... and that is dying.
1925 - 2001