My grandmother died. She was the glue that held everyone together. Without her, we would have been a distant and not involved in each other's lives. Everyone's heart is broken without her. Everyone's heart was breaking watching her slip away.
A couple of months ago she was diagnosed with a Stage 4 inoperable brain tumor located on her thalamus. She was sent home on hospice with maybe 6 months to live.
If you don't know what a thalamus is, it's the little bean-shaped part almost directly in the center of your brain. Surgery was not an option. If you don't know what a thalamus does, it basically tells your brain what's going on outside your body. It's the main "relay station", I guess is the best answer.
A tumor-y thalamus starts taking things away one at a time. At any point you could lose vision, hearing, balance, motor skills, and lastly, your automatic nervous system shuts down. First, we think she had a minor stroke. After that, it went downhill pretty quickly. Next, her speech went. All she could do to communicate was make guttural noises. I believe, I really want to believe that she could understand that we were all telling her we loved her. On the flip side, I know how independent she was so I hope she was completely unaware of her limited capabilities and having to rely on my dad and aunts and uncles to do things for her.
After the speech loss, she began sleeping a lot. Soon, she was catheterized and bedridden because she lost control of her motor skills, She couldn't walk strait or get a cup to her lips.
On Thursday, her breathing became shallow and the hospice nurse said that it would be soon, maybe hours. The stubborn-assed woman held on until about 1:15 p.m. yesterday. And then she was gone.
This woman helped raise me and took in my 17 year old self with a baby to live with her. She never asked for anything from anyone. She fed what seemed like the whole neighborhood throughout my childhood. She would do anything for anyone, no matter the cost or inconvenience.
She chased my idiot brother out of the house with a broom when he was acting a fool. She wrestled with my uncle Danny and ended up sticking a coat hanger up his nose. When we, my brother, me, and my cousins, were kids growing up, if one of us (not me, of course) was in trouble, she used to go make them pick their own switch off the hickory bush at the top of the yard.
She always had to sit in the hall of her house on Christmas Eve to open her presents because she got so many. She took care of her mother, my Mamaw Petty, when she got Alzheimer's and couldn't live alone anymore. She babysat every cousin, grandchild, great-grandchild and anyone else that would let her. I'm sad that my cousin Jacquline's babies won't know her like we do, I'm sad that the babies not born in our family won't get to know her. Most of all I'm sad that nothing will be the same ever again.
I'm so mad. Mad at the unfairness of the world. I'm mad that God could let that happen to her. She deserved to go quietly in her sleep in 15 or so years from now, not suffocate because her nervous system shut down because of a big ass tumor rotting away her brain. If anything, I deserve the tumor. I've been a selfless little shit my whole life. Not her, though. She was the most selfless person I've ever known.
The worst part for me is that I'm 1,000 miles away. I couldn't be there with her. I can't be there with my Daddy when his heart is so broken. I can't go to her funeral to bid her fond farewell. Although on that end, my eternal bestest friend in the whole world is going to go and stand in for me. I've said all I needed to say to her, anyway. And everyone tells me she knows; she knows that I love her and she understood me when I said over the phone how grateful I was for all she had done for me my whole life. The say she knows. I hope they're right.
Right now it feels like nothing is right and won't ever be again. I believe time will help, but nothing, not time, not painkillers, not anything, will erase this emptiness that I'm sure all of us who loved her are feeling. Right now it's raw and jagged and debilitating. Maybe one day it will be less raw and jagged and debilitating. And then maybe one day it will just be a dull ache and we won't sit and just feel the pain and can resume some semblance of normal life. Although, now life is not normal anymore.
If you pray, pray for a peace for my family. If you think good thoughts, send them out into the universe. If you don't do anything, well, I guess continue not doing anything. Whatever higher being you worship, please ask for healing for my family. Everyone worships something. If it's money, donate to the American Cancer Society. If it's power, use your influence for the good of society and not just yourself.
Even if you didn't know her, and I'm sad that you didn't, don't wait until it's too late to tell the ones you love how grateful you are to have them in your life.