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To Every Thing a Season…

I never know when it’s going to hit me.  I can be talking, and then I just burst into tears.  This morning, I was paying my insurance bill, and I lost it, just weeping. My sweet grandmother (who everyone knew as “Mombow”) left this life on Saturday morning at 5:25… with my mom holding one hand, with me holding the other.  And I can’t believe how much I am lost, knowing that she’s no longer here. That I just can’t call or hug her.

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As (technically) an only child, I grew up with FOUR parents.  My mom, my dad, my grandmother (Mombow),  and my grandfather (Papooh).  

When I was born, Mombow told Papooh:
“I am moving to Savannah to be with my new grandbaby with or without you.”

Papooh went. (Smart man. 🙂 )

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And I was lucky and blessed to have four of them with me growing up. At every school event, basketball, softball, volleyball, weightlifting event… they were all there.  Cheering. [Totally embarrassing me (ah, Middle School).]  My childhood friends all knew Mombow.  Because she was such an integral part of my life.

In a sense, I was telling the Expert this morning, I feel like I have lost a mother.  I have a mother, but I also had a grandmother.

I have always been very scared of death–especially bodies and the death process.

Funerals? Forget it…  I couldn’t take it. It’s a terrible thing to fear, because it’s so selfish.  But I swear, it has been a very real fear for my whole life.

When my dad called me with the news on Friday afternoon that Mombow had a stroke and had fallen… and the doctor said she “would not make it,” I didn’t know what to do.  After a few minutes to figure it out, there was no question that I was leaving. And that meant hopping in the car in Atlanta rush hour, and driving the usually-four-hours to Savannah… in almost seven.

My mom said on the phone to me, as I was driving, “Prepare yourself.”

At that moment, really, it was inconceivable to me that we were actually going to lose her.

I arrived at the hospital close to 10:00 pm.

I stepped on a fresh box of chicken wing bones as I got out of the car. (Ah, Savannah). And I went into the hospital room, where my grandfather sat.

Prepare yourself.  That was impossible.  This kind of prep.

I saw her last weekend, as we were in town for the half marathon. I hugged her tightly as we left–because I knew it was the last time I was going to see her. I knew it. I could feel it in my bones.  She was heading towards Alzheimer’s, and I just had a feeling… that even if she was here in body, that it was the last time I would have her–as she was.

I didn’t know that my Spidey sense was leaning towards this–that I wouldn’t have her at all.

Mombow, after the fall, never regained consciousness.  “She will not survive this,” replaying over and over again in my head.  My mom, in the ER, received hand squeezes from her… but by the time I got to Savannah, well over nine hours after her fall, she was unresponsive, and breathing hard.

I’m not going to write about how if you are mad at someone, you should make amends now.  Or that you should take the time to say, “I love you.” Because (well, you should), but it’s so much more than that.  Those are things to make yourself feel better.  How do you make someone else, the person who is dying, feel better?  That was where I was helpless, and confused.

I learned very quickly exactly what you do when someone is dying.  Or at least, what made sense to do.

You sit. You love. You speak quietly. At one point, Mom was touching her face, and she started squinting her eyes really hard– “she’s probably aggravated at us petting on her face,” I said.  And Mom said, “Yes, let’s pet her arms for a while.”  So that’s we did.

Then, it’s okay when you get the uncontrollable giggles, then the uncontrollable tears.  You talk to them, knowing that they can hear you. That’s what you do.

And that’s what I learned on Friday…into the wee hours of Saturday morning.  Just to love someone to death… I wonder if that’s where the phrase came from. Because that’s what Mom and I did… loved her right on.

Being with some as they are dying, as they take their last breath… that is something so precious, so beautiful, and I can’t describe how proud and thankful I was of Mombow, and all the fight she had in her–her whole life, really–up until the end.

We are SO busy now in this day and age. Life is literally flying by, and I don’t know which way is up or down most of the time.

But as my mom and I spent the last of her seven continuous hours, loving on Mombow as she left the world, I could not think of anywhere else I wanted to be… it was a such an amazing blessing to be right beside her as her breathing changed, as she went through the process… and finally, as the air went out of her lungs, softly like a small balloon, and we could see her pulse slow, slow slow and then stop through her paper-thin skin.

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Yes, I had been so terrified of the death process, of funerals until Saturday. Because in her death, Mombow continued to give, so selflessly. She gave me a new strength, and a new love and a new willingness to be someone who can step up and do the “hard” thing in the future. I will never, ever (ever) hesitate to be there for someone during this process.

For those of you who don’t know the right things to say in a time like this, I’d like to share this article. I read it about a month ago (although the article is from 2013), and it has been really fantastic and integral over the past week for me… and making sure that I take care of those right in the circle–my grandfather and my mom.

“Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you’re talking to someone in a larger ring than yours. And don’t worry. You’ll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that…”

Because that’s how life goes on.

I can’t believe the range of emotions right now… from exhaustion to sadness back to exhaustion. I want to sleep. I want to cry, run, and then eat (oh, the eating. I can’t even…)

In times of grief, no one wants to hear that “everything happens for a reason” or “she’s in a better place.”  But in this case, I know those things are true…

I just wish someone would tell my heart. <3

 

24 Comments

  • Kira

    February 18, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Beautifully written! As a hospice nurse I have witnessed some of the most beautiful love at the end of life. And of course, some of the ugliest. Your memories and your Mombow’s grace will carry you on when your heart feels heaviest.

    Reply
  • Carol Bailey aka "W"

    February 18, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    I understand these feelings and more. I would love to tell you that time heals…but it does make it a little easier. I still have my moments when I would give almost anything to get one more hug or just to talk with my parents but I try to remember and dwell in the wonderful memories and the assurance that I will see them again. As I have told you, you remain in my prayers for comfort and peace. Love you B!

    Reply
  • Margaret Lumos

    February 18, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    My deepest condolences. Beautifully written. Genuine. You are correct about the honor and privilege afforded at the end of life. It can be an amazing gift. It’s truly an intimate human experience.

    In your opening paragraphs you stated “moving with or without you” and I noticed a race on your events calendar called the “with or without you 5k”. It struck me. The exact words. You will always be moving forward “with” Mombow and you will never be “without” her.

    Wishing you comfort and peace

    Reply
    • Swim Bike Mom

      February 18, 2016 at 6:22 pm

      Oh my goodness… you are so right. I was supposed to run that the morning she passed away. 🙁 You are so right. Always #withme. <3

      Reply
  • Danielle

    February 18, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss. My deepest and sincerest condolences to you and your family. While Mombow will no longer be here in person, her spirit and her energy will live on. The void she left will be quickly overflowing with love for her, from her and for you and all who knew her. From this love, her energy will continue to grow and find it’s ways to reach you. Whether it’s the soft touch of the wind, the chime of a bell, laughter or a cheers of a glass. Energy never dies, it just finds new ways to be with us.

    Much love to you and your family during this difficult time.

    Reply
  • Lydia S.

    February 19, 2016 at 9:17 am

    So sorry for your loss Meredith. Having suddenly lost my 22 year old son in November with no chance to say goodbye, and then 8 weeks later losing my father in law whom I did have the chance to bid farewell. I feel your pain, and NOTHING prepares you for the level of grief that hits you in the gut. My sister in law took a photo similar to the one you shared of my husband and his sisters holding my father in law’s hand as he breathed his last and I think it is the most beautiful image. Cry, scream, hit the walls, it is your grief and your emotions and give your self the time to process all of this.

    Reply
  • Virginia

    February 19, 2016 at 10:31 am

    My grandmother passed away in August. It was my last grandparent. I can’t tell you how hard it has been. I didn’t expect it to be that hard. I miss her so much. For my grandmother, the death took 3 weeks. I wanted to stay with her on the night she died, but my family encouraged me to go home. No one thought she would die that night. We left her at the hospital with a sitter and went home. I regret that more than I can express. I am glad you were able to be there in the end. That means so much.

    Reply
  • Eileen

    February 19, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Beautiful! And perfect. Thank you.

    As an aside, as someone who grew up with either deceased before my time or grandparents that lived very far away….would you consider one day writing about what made your relationship with her so special? As I age, with my kids now college+, I wonder how I can, one day, be a grandparent that is a fraction of what you describe above. I’m always fascinated about that amazing relationship when I read about such ones, when it just did not exist in my life (for reasons out of everyone’s control).

    Hugs to you Meredith. I know I will be re-reading this post over time.

    Reply
  • Heather

    February 19, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    I am so sorry. I lost my Gram last Feb. She was 100. How lucky was my family to have Gram that long! My oldest cousin was 63. Imagine having a Gram until 63? I never really truly thought she would be gone. I miss her more then I ever imagined. Time makes it easier but there is still a regular pang in my heart. She taught me more then I realized. She was one person I knew loved me no matter what. Period. Grammas are so amazing. I miss mine. Sending love to you.

    Reply
  • Karen

    February 20, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My beloved grandmother passed right before Christmas at the impressive age of 99. I miss her terribly. She, like Mombow, was at every dance recital, birthday party, weekend barbecue, and holiday. We were so very close. So I send you a hug and my deepest condolences.

    Reply
  • Janice

    February 22, 2016 at 9:52 am

    I am so sorry for your loss. It was incredible (as hard as it may have been) for you to be there with her in her last few hours. Knowing someone you love so much is near the end can be so hard yet at the same time, your presence brings comfort. I too know this feeling. My thoughts are with you and your family as you celebrate Mombow and all she brought to your life and the lives of those she loved as well as mourn her departure. She is with you every step you take even though she is not her to take them with you.

    Reply
  • ray nesbitt

    February 22, 2016 at 11:26 am

    We loved MomBow but no matter how much we loved her we could never love her as much as she loved us. In her quiet special way the love was always there for us even when she was in pain. Never complaining ever constant on her path through life. A path she walked each day holding our hand and loving us all the while expressing no need for herself. Always gentle, kind and loving. We were so blessed to have had MomBow as out beacon, our light to goodness and kindness. She was a love I have I have never known and will never find again. I love you Sweetie

    Reply
  • Susan

    February 24, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing at such an emotional time for you. It brings life back into perspective. Tonight my 40 minute drive home from work turned into a 3 1/2 hour drive with 3 separate times I needed help from strangers getting a push, tow or plow. Love the snow. First thing I did when I walked in the door was call my mom to make me feel better. My moms dealing with her own crap. Metastatic breast cancer in her bones and organs. Tomorrow she goes in for more treatment and more test results. Instead of being sad and worrying about tomorrow she tried to make me feel better and let me know she loves me. I feel like a big jerk getting upset about the drive and dumping on her. I made it home safe. I should be thankful for that and being spending my time/thoughts/prayers on making sure my mom was prepared for tomorrow. Perspective. Thank you.

    Reply
  • christina

    February 27, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    I am very sorry for your lose. So glad you and your mom were able to be there and hold her hand in her last hours, minutes. I, or one of my team, are often the ones to hold the hands of patients as they pass and have no one or that they could not get there in time or cannot handle the end. It is incredibly sad. I feel so thankful to be there to help but also reminds me each and every time to call, see, hug, love my family a bit more.

    Reply
  • Dawn

    March 2, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    I apologize that I did not have a chance to leave my condolences sooner. I am so very sorry for your loss, but glad that you could be there to give her comfort as she left. This post left me teary, but determined to become to my grandchildren what she was to you. What a wonderful tribute to her is reflected here in your words. XO

    Reply

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