Though I was raised Catholic, I’m not a particularly religious person. I do, however, consider myself someone who has faith that there is something out there bigger than myself. My whole life, my Grandma has talked about angels. Specifically, when I was learning how to drive under her watch, she instructed me to never drive faster than my guardian angel could fly…which is advice I’ve heeded most of my adult life. As I’ve sat at home these last 10 days and watched my Grandma fade in and out of coherence, laugh at and with us, become frustrated and confused, and ultimately, move closer to death each and every day, I’m learning that angels come in many forms, some of whom walk this earth on a daily basis.
My grandma has a hospice nurse who comes five days a week, Nancy, and a few others who rotate in and out. I asked Nancy this morning how she got into hospice work, and she simply said that after working at a nursing home where she got 23 minutes per day with each patient, she needed a meaningful change. She said that she always remembered young nurses at the nursing home saying “Gosh, I hope no one dies on my watch,” and while she understood that sentiment, she felt like it was an honor to be the last person present and caring for someone in their final days. She shared that she lost her father when he was quite young, and even before that, her family had exposed her to death and dying in such a way that it was not something to be scared of. All of this is what led her to hospice care.
How beautiful is that, y’all? As I sit here thinking, “God, I could never be a nurse!” (which let me say, is wholly true because bodily fluids gross me all the way out), I reflect on the way my grandma and mom also never shadowed us from death. We went to calling hours and funerals for all the old Italian ladies around town from the time I can remember, and every time my grandpa was sick, we were at the hospital to visit as soon as he could handle it. Exposure to death as children allowed us to cope so much better as adults. Anyway, watching this nurse come to bathe and tend to my grandmother, brush her hair, ensure she takes her pills, and kiss her on the forehead before she leaves…that’s an angel in disguise if ever there was one.
My Godfather & His Family
My godfather also happens to be my uncle. His wife is the nurse in the family, and she’s always been tasked with talking all of us through whatever medical crisis is plaguing the person or family member. My uncle works in management at a job that is somewhat seasonal, and as soon as he was “off” for the season, he stepped in to help sit with my grandma every single day. And he doesn’t just sit with her. He brings games to play, shows to watch, and activities to do, all in an attempt to keep her mind active as her body is not. Additionally, my aunt does her pill counts every week, dresses and cleans wounds from when she’s fallen, and is a great liaison between our family and the hospice people. Lastly, their twin boys, who will be 19 this year, have stepped up immensely. In the past, it’s been my brothers and I who help when a grandparent is down, but we don’t live here anymore. The twins have stepped in and do all that their father does for my grandma without having to be asked. It’s been so beautiful to see them get to have a relationship with her has the end comes nearer.
If you know me at all, you likely know that my mom is just about my favorite person on the planet. When my grandma started to decline at the end of the summer, my grandma made it clear that she wanted to die at home and not in the hospital. My mom moved into my grandma’s home in order to help keep her there through the end of her life. Since August, my mom has slept next to my dad less than 6 days, but she doesn’t complain. In fact, if you ask her, my mom will tell you feels honored to be by my grandma’s side to help through the falls and accidents and wiley-ness of our favorite ailing old lady. My mom never seeks praise, in fact, I think it makes her uncomfortable, because like many of us, you do for family, whatever that means. Since I’ve been home, I’ve kept a close eye on my mom to make sure she really is okay, and y’all, she is! She takes the challenges in stride, and is the person whose presence settles my grandmother better than anyone else.
Like I said at the beginning, this blog isn’t about a space to question the existence of a higher power or anything like that; truthfully, I don’t care what you believe. You’re entitled to your beliefs and I mine, but in my recent time at home, I can’t help but think about the people above and many, many more, who walk among us but are so special. Maybe they’re angels, maybe they’re not, but these people certainly have made a difference in my life and the life of my grandmother. And at the very end, I know when my grandma does decide to let go, I’ll have gained another angel myself. Here’s to hoping she can fly as fast as she taught me to drive!
Until next time,