Holding Her Hand {Saying Goodbye to Gran}

My grandmother has lived with my aunt Beckie, right around the corner from us, for the past couple of years. Last year I hosted Thanksgiving so that my grandmother could come to dinner because she’d become mostly home-bound (and we live so nearby). I planned to do the same this year, but the weekend before Thanksgiving, my grandmother had a stroke; this was more severe than her previous small stroke some years ago. That Monday, the home healthcare folks told us what we thought they’d say: my grandmother would not recover, and it would likely only be a matter of days before she died.

So our holiday plans changed.

We were not able to physically do everything needed, so Gran was put on round-the-clock hospice care — still at home in my aunt’s house. All week long, Gran’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were in and out of Beckie’s house to visit. We’d done this before when my grandfather was in his last days, and we were all so glad he was able to pass on peacefully, surrounded by family and not in a hospital.

Gran was mostly only semi-conscious. She was in pain, and cried when she had to be moved to change her, etc., so she was given morphine, plus oxygen to make breathing easier.

Granmama had things she needed to say.

In the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, Gran “woke up” and had a lot to say. Beckie called a few relatives, so my mom and my uncle and a few of my cousins were there. Granmama talked for several hours, non-stop. The slurred words that began the previous weekend were gone. She had them all laughing and crying, depending on the moment.

She told them my Grandaddy (who passed on about four years ago) was there in his good suit, telling her to hurry up and get ready because he wanted to take her on a trip.

She said, “Forgive everybody. Just forgive everybody.”

She prayed aloud; she said things that needed to be said; and finally, finally seemed at peace about leaving us all.

After that, Gran went back to semi-consciousness, rarely saying anything.

Life keeps going.

During the week, I spent a lot of time at my aunt Beckie’s house, but we didn’t shut down our lives. Lindsey had never experienced a death in the family or anything like this and didn’t know what to do. I told her to keep on going to work and doing things as usual until there was reason not to. My mom still had to check in at her office. Ken still went to work. Kathryn still went to her dad’s.

Lindsey and I helped serve Thanksgiving dinner last Wednesday at the soup kitchen where I sometimes volunteer. It was a wonderful reminder to keep our priorities straight and remember what’s really important.

Lindsey serving Thankgiving dinner at soup kitchen

Later that evening, I sat with my grandmother, to give Beckie a few hours to just relax. The nurse was there, but Gran seemed more at peace with a loved one sitting and holding her hand. So I watched the old 1940’s movie on TV, one Gran would’ve loved for the dancing and the beautiful outfits. She was always a very stylish lady with as much composure and grace as any star from the golden era of Hollywood.

{At left, she’s about 17; at right, celebrating her 45th wedding anniversary.}


Meanwhile, Gran slept through the old movie, and I just held her hand.

holding Granmama's hand

Going home on Thanksgiving.

We opted to accept my sister’s offer to have Thanksgiving dinner at her house so I didn’t have to do as much cleaning and cooking. (Since we have different moms, Granmama was not her grandmother.) It was wonderful to have my dad there — especially after our scare with almost losing him a few weeks ago — and visiting with my nieces and grand-nieces, too.

After Thanksgiving lunch at my sisters, we came home so I could make a few side dishes to take to my aunt’s house. My mom bought a pre-cooked turkey, and my aunt made another side dish. Again I sat with Gran so the rest of them could eat; we even shooed the nurse out to the kitchen so she could have Thanksgiving dinner, too.

I decided to stay a while longer. At just after 7:00, I stepped out of the room for something, but my mom and the nurse were still with Gran. Mom realized Gran stopped breathing so she called Beckie in — just in time for Gran to take her last breath.

Thanksgiving day seems like such a sad time to lose a loved one, but we were thankful.

  • Thankful that she passed peacefully.
  • Thankful two of her daughters were by her side at that moment.
  • Thankful she died at home.
  • Thankful we all had time to say goodbye in the previous days.
  • Thankful she had 85 years on this earth.
  • Thankful she loved her Savior and is with him now.
  • Thankful her husband of 60+ years was there to greet her.
  • Thankful for the heritage of faith she and my Grandaddy created.
  • Thankful for the large and loving family that continues on.
  • Thankful for the time I had spent one-on-one, just holding her hand.
  • Thankful for such a beautiful, wonderful grandmother.
  • Thankful for all the memories of her loving on us all.

big family group 2007

I bought a sparkly silver sweater with blingy buttons to wear to the funeral because Granmama always loved all things sparkly and festive. My cousin Windee ordered the flower arrangement to top the casket, and it was overflowing with pink roses and sparkling silver ribbon: exactly what Gran would’ve chosen for herself. My cousin Jonnia (with a voice like an angel) sang “In the Garden,” and I think Gran and Grandaddy — who were very good dancers — shared the first waltz they’ve been able to do in many, many years.