My Grandma was the kind of person that you felt close to from the moment you met her. She was sweet and funny. She had a squishy Grandma body that made you want to cuddle with her, whether you were 8 years old or 38 years old. She loved feeding people; she made the best cinnamon rolls, cookies and donuts I’ve ever tasted. She was still making them in her own kitchen at age 98! She was patient and kind. I don’t remember her ever raising her voice to me, but she was the last person I ever wanted to disappoint. She taught me so many things, everything from how to clean a fish to how to operate a band saw! She loved making things, especially for other people. She sewed and donated hundreds of quilts with her church sewing circle. She loved being outside and gardened all of her life. She wasn’t afraid to tell you what she thought, but she could do it in a gentle way that drew people even closer to her. I was pretty young the first time I remember her telling me that I just had to be myself. She was always herself. She had too many friends to count, well maybe that’s not true. She lived in a town of roughly 250 people for 70 years and I never met anyone that didn’t like her. My Grandma was religious and loved going to church. She had a deep faith in God and as my sister Kristen said, she wasn’t afraid to die because she knew where she was going.
But, the thing I loved most about her was her spirit, she was tiny but scrappy and if you told her not to do something it only made her want to do it MORE. No matter what life threw at her she tried to face it with courage and a wonderful sense of humor.
Basically, my Grandma is the kind of person I strive to be every single day.
On Wednesday, September 4th my Grandma had a stroke. As a result of that stroke her throat was paralyzed, leaving her unable to swallow.
Her living will made her wishes clear. She did not want any heroic measures, no iv fluids and no feeding tube.
So, as my sister Julie and I sped toward Bemidji on September 5th, we had no idea what we would find…. if she’d know us, if she’d be able to speak or even if she’d still be alive.
But, for the next 11 days we were given an incredible gift. She was cognizant of her surroundings, recognized family and friends and spoke often. She continued trying to make all of US feel better about what was happening. I took notes of the things that she said. What follows are some of her last words.
(Julie and I come striding into the room at full speed, totally panicked.)
Well…. hi. You two sure came a long way for nothing.
(Looking around her hospital room)
It’s boring here.
Nurse – do you want to eat?
Gma – not while I’m in THIS PLACE.
Gma taking out IV…..
Julie – don’t take that out or we’ll get in trouble.
Gma – I don’t care.
(Early one morning her roommate had an emergency and the nurses were working on her, Gma was getting out of bed and pulling on the curtain.)
Nurse – Ethel, get back in bed.
Gma – I will if you tell what’s all the ruckus over there.
(To anyone who looked tired, family, friends, nurse and even security guards.)
Gma – You better go find a bed to crawl into.
Gma – I should send everyone to the dime store for coming to see me.
Cara – you’re so pretty.
Gma – are you looking for a nickel or a dime?
(After a nurse put her socks on.)
Gma – I’m not used being pampered so much.
Gma – Are you staying here?
Me – Yes. Unless you’re tired of looking at my pretty face?
Gma – Never.
(I put my cold hand on her leg.)
Gma – where exactly have YOUR hands been??
Me – How are you doing Gma?
Gma – (with a smile) well…. I have had better days.
Me – you should take a nap.
Gma – I don’t take naps.
Me – I love naps.
Gma – then you can have this bed.
(While I was sitting next to her bed holding her hand.)
Gma – I appreciate you coming here to see me. I’ll take you out to a restaurant when we get out of this joint.
Gma – where’s Julie?
Me – I dont know, should we go look for her?
Gma – well I’m not going to be very much help with THAT!
Nurse – I need to listen to your heart.
Gma – you can listen to it if I still have one.
Gma – are you going to find a bed to crawl into?
Me – no, I think I’m okay for now.
Gma – you can have this bed when I’m done.
Me – I think I’d like it if you stayed there for awhile longer.
Gma – then you should crawl in bed with me.
Nurse – I need to put this tube behind your ear.
Gma – it’s back there somewhere.
Gma – is the whole family here?
Me – yes. We are all here to see you because we love you.
Gma – too bad I’m so lazy.
Me – are you ok?
Gma- I just need some pep in my step.
(Giving Gma a hand rub.)
Me – someone told me I’m the best hand rubber in the world!
Gma – I believe it!!
Julie – grandma, you have to lay down!
Me – you can do whatever you want grandma!
Gma – so don’t listen her? (points at Julie)
Me – nope
Gma – good. I won’t.
(After combing gma’s hair.)
Julie – now you look beautiful!
Gma – it’s gonna take a whole lot more than that!
Me – is your face itchy again?
Gma – I’m just scratching my whiskers.
Me – your a funny gma. I think I’m funny too, I must get that from you. Dad is funny too.
Me – Mom’s not funny tho.
Gma – Nope. Not so much.
Gma – where are you staying?
Me – Super 8
Gma – charge the room to me.
(To a nurse with a black and grey flag tattoo on her arm.)
Gma – how’d you get your arm so dirty?
Nurse – is the thermometer under your tongue?
Gma – no
Nurse – Why not??
Gma – I don’t know! You tell me!
(Standing by Gma’s bed.)
Gma- I’ll scootch over for you.
Mel – Are you making room for me to climb in?
Gma – yes.
Me – I don’t think there’s room for me.
Gma – plenty of room!
(I lay down with her.)
Me – let me know if I’m hurting you.
Gma – you’re not.
Me – would you tell me if I was?
Gma – don’t worry.
Gma – remember. you just gotta be yourself.
Tomorrow, with heavy hearts, my family and I will lay my Grandma to rest. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
6 thoughts on “The Best Grandma Ever.”
How awesome that you have a record of your last days with her. You’ll be so glad you wrote down those conversations. Thinking of you and your family!
This made me cry. What a spunky, funny woman your grandma was. I’m so sorry for the loss your whole family has endured. She made the best of her hospital time and she wanted you girls to be more comfortable than anything. What a loving, wonderful woman.
I think this may be my favorite blog 🙂 I wish I could’ve met sweet grandma Ethel. I love hearing the stories about her…you definitely get your wit & spunk from her. I love you tons, Mel & am thinking of you during this difficult time.
Thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time
oops..that was me Ali Sullivan
tears flowing. I never knew my grandparents. My mom’s parents didn’t enjoy the grandchildren around at all, so mom stopped bringing us around when we were really young. I don’t even remember meeting my dad’s mom, and she died when I was pretty young, and my dad’s stepdad didn’t like kids either. You are so lucky to have such a wonderful grandmother for so long……