A few weeks ago, C & I were visiting my sister in Illinois. We had been busy from the minute we arrived on Friday evening and throughout the day on Saturday. So when Sunday morning rolled around, we called our parents with the hope that we could Skype for a minute or two. It didn't really surprise us when they did not answer (Sunday mornings mean either: church, long walks, playing in the garden, or coffee & donuts with Grandma Viv. --or a combination of these things) but it did surprise us to receive a text from Dad explaining that they were headed to Council Bluffs because my grandma Ruby had fallen.
Immediately, my sister and I assumed that she had broken her hip-- afterall, isn't that what tends to happen as a result of falls? But much to our disbelief, we soon learned that the conditions were much worse. She had actually hit her head and suffered a brain injury. My parents kept us updated throughout the next few days, but they were very clear that the outcome did not look good. My heart feared the worst-- and then my brain started to question what the worst might be. The doctors knew they were dealing with an 80 year old brain, but were unable to know if or how she would ever recover. The possibilities of "what ifs" were tremendous and I can't imagine being in her children's position and needing to make decisions that would ultimately affect her life, quality of life, and eventually her death.
After 72 hours, the decision was made to move her from the ICU to a patient bed. She received pain medication and was monitored closely. Hospice services were utilized and by Thursday night, she had passed peacefully away.
My dad called me as I drove to our staff breakfast on Friday morning. The words stung as he informed me of her passing, but I also felt this rush of peace flow through me. Knowing she would not be "living" in a nursing home, hooked up to monitors and tubes and machines-- possibly for years, was a relief to me. And while I'm still not convinced of an actual afterlife, I know that she was a spiritual person and believed my grandpa Arv was first in line to greet her with open arms. (And honestly, the thought of having them together again -after 21 years apart- give me the strangest sense of peace-- I just cannot explain it.)
However, the whole situation is just surreal to me. I'm so blessed that Grandma Ruby and Auntie San were just at our house to visit Charlie (& me?). Charlie gave Grandma the biggest hug and had drawn pictures for her. He was so excited to see "Gamma Ubby" and show her all of his things. They arrived while C was napping so we had time to chat in the kitchen, although now I"m not sure what we talked about! It was just light, fun conversation. I showed them some letters I had found and we talked about "the old days". :) When it was time to leave, we agreed to find a time this summer to visit and see Grandma's new place and take Charlie to the Omaha Zoo. We talked about putting it on the calendar for July-- only a few weeks away. As Sandi and Grandma left, Charlie gave Grandma Ruby an "oooh-ahhh" (ask a Bomgaars family member for the story on those!) and hugged her so tight. We waved goodbye as they drove away. Charlie kept waving and saying, "Bye Gamma Ubbi! Bye Nandy! Love You!" and I was laughing--already looking forward to the upcoming zoo visit.
If only I had known that was the last time I'd see my Grandma. Aside from the fact that I'm SO sad that we didn't take a picture that day, I wouldn't have done much differently. We had a wonderful conversation, we played with Charlie, we talked about memories, we just had a beautiful afternoon. And as far as the picture thing goes, it's just one of those things you can't get hung up on. I wish I had thought to take a picture of Grandma, Dad, me and Charlie when we all were together for Nora's baptism too. (Four generations-- Three firstborns!) But we didn't and instead, we have some great memories.
My grandma's funeral service was beautiful. The pastor did an amazing job of remembering the lady that we loved and will now miss. My cousin put together a photo video filled with years of photos and memories. Watching the video brought me peace in knowing that she lived such a full life. And while I wish we would have been able to get our four generations photo and make that trip to the zoo, I know that it's best not to dwell on wishes but rather those memories that we can cherish forever.
* Grandma always called me "Sugarplum". And although I don't think I ever signed my letters from Sugarplum, it's always who I was when I was with Grandma. And, because of that little nickname, every time I have ever seen a lipstick, purse, frosting, decoration, book, recipe, or novelty item with the name "Sugarplum", I always have--and now I always will, think of my Grandma Ruby.