Tuesday, April 03, 2007


My mother told me last week that the nurse said, given a choice between whether she thought Grandma would live another five days or another ten days, that it would be "stretching it" to say ten days more. My mother said she was going to Denver this past weekend. I was undecided until W at work said "Go." [For the record, my husband IMed me "I think it would be good for you to go" while I was talking to W. And he supported me the entire way through and I like him lots. Still.] I am glad I did. I am also glad I was able to snag Fr. Christodoulos to hear my confession. He's wonderful.

I spent three hours at the hospice with my grandmother. I spoke in her left ear, repeatedly telling her who I was and that I loved her (my father's advice, especially the repetition). The hospice people said that she was in a comatose state, and my mother had warned me that Grandma's breathing was irregular - it might stop for as long as 20 seconds or so at a time.

I patted her hair and read psalms to her (only the happy ones, per my mother's advice). I switched sides and she opened her eyes and flinched quite a bit when I began to pet her hair again. I told her who I was and that I loved her, some more. I read some more psalms to her. I sang songs to her. I told her funny little stories that came into my head.

The nurse came in and showed me how to give her some water, after I asked whether she could swallow (thinking of the holy water I had brought with me). Grandma's mouth was open and her tongue looked like the kind of tongue you get when you have too much phlegm and then go to sleep and can't breathe through your nose. I had only noticed her swallow about once until then. The first time the nurse gave Grandma some water it was apparent that Grandma's mouth was dry, and she closed her lips on the little sponge. A little later, Grandma coughed, which alarmed me (she could hardly move herself at all), so I went out into the hall where a group of nurses was. Some of them came in and showed me the little pain-medicine button and I could push it as often as I liked and it wouldn't overmedicate her (releasing only every 20 minutes). That made the few times I saw Grandma wince a little easier, as there was something I could do.

I put oil on her forehead, the holy oil that Dn. Virgil had brought back from his senior trip to New York. I told her about him and how he was praying for her. I showed her the little icon of Christ's body with his Mother and three disciples nearby. I told her they were waiting for Christ's Resurrection, just as we were waiting for Easter. Her eyes went from my face to the little icon as I described it.

After a while she seemed to be tired, so I spent the rest of the visit reading silently by her bedside, petting her hair smooth (I had complimented her on her hair and skin—my mother would say that if Grandma didn't keep a hair appointment, then we could start to worry), and reassuring her with pain medication and verbal reminders: "I'm here; you're okay," after which she seemed to rest a little easier.

When the nurses came in to move her occasionally, they didn't seem to be too careful about letting her know they were going to touch or move her before they did so. I remember being in the hospital after my back surgery and having my own surgeon sit on my mattress even though I was begging him to get up because he was hurting me; he didn't. She was in a lot of pain when they moved her, and I don't blame her for being even more hurt at sudden, unexpected movement by others. I was glad when they left us alone.

I had never been really "close" with my grandmother. I am her youngest grandchild (just me and my sisters).

I drove home to Grandma's house, a thirty-minute drive which took fifty because I had no sense of direction in the dark (7 o'clock there was my body's 9 o'clock), and took two long wrong turns. My mother came in the middle of the night and got to Grandma's house around three thirty. We were awakened early by a call saying Grandma had passed away. We had celebrated her 90th birthday party in October 2005.

The previous time I had visited my grandmother, I remembered her crying that she missed her husband. She had been without him for over 15 years. When I went to see her body in the morning, her forehead was smoothed, not wrinkled in pain. I was overcome with joy. She has her husband, her four tiny children who didn't survive more than a day or two, her adopted daughter. She is surrounded by God's love and grace. Filling my head was the word "Rejoice" from the akathist.

My mother was quite collected, having directions on what to do from her mother. She did say several times that I was a great help and she was glad I had come.

Please pray for the repose of the soul of the servant of God, Mary Catherine.



Blogger Philippa said...

Memory Eternal!!!

What a beautiful story Magda. Thank you for sharing it, especially during this Holy Week.

You are a good granddaughter.

Tue Apr 03, 09:30:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Laura said...

May her Memory be Eternal!

Wed Apr 04, 07:45:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

My condolences on your loss. What a gift--to you, to your grandmother, to your mother, for you all to spend her last few hours together. It will be something you'll remember all your life.

Wed Apr 04, 04:50:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Mimi said...

May her Memory be Eternal. Be assured of my prayers.

I am so glad you were there.

Wed Apr 04, 05:31:00 PM CDT  

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