Roughly six months ago my Grandmother was moved into a nursing home. Grandma Knight no longer knew who most of us were by name or even how we were related, but did seem to understand she does know us somehow.
Sidenote: When I was 17 years old my Great-Grandmother Roberts had Alzheimer’s and was also in a nursing home. She had been there for a few years but I remember by the time I was 17 – she no longer knew who I was. It was incredibly hard for me to understand, and I stopped going with my mom to visit her. This is something I have always regretted.
I was better prepared for Grandma Knight to not know who I was anymore, after my experience with Grandma Roberts, but I think it’s hard no matter what. However, the harder part for me was understanding the differences in the actions between what I had experienced before, and what we were experiencing now.
I have always been the kind of person who needs to know “why”. It’s difficult for me to be told something without information that allows me to understand what is going on, why it happens, etc. I spent hours researching signs and symptoms. This trait of mine follows me in my personal life as well as my career. It can be a blessing, but also a huge pain in the butt for everyone around me. 😉
Anyways, writing about my Grandma hits closer to home than most things I write about, and is pretty personal; but I think it’s important for other people out there who have a loved one who has a disease that takes over their mind – to know they are not alone. While your loved one is going through something like this, we spend our time focused on them, helping them, and loving them. When they pass, we focus on what needs to be done, funeral arrangements, contacting family members, and for some people – also figuring out the estate details. If you are anything like me, it’s probably difficult to put into words when you are talking to someone else – exactly how you are feeling & what you are thinking.For me, what helps is writing. When I take the time to sit down and write – it helps. I guess you could say its therapeutic.
When Grandma went into the nursing home, she was still capable of walking around without any assistance and could carry a conversation for hours. Sure, that conversation may have been the same few subjects we would cycle through, but nonetheless she enjoyed chatting for as long as you could visit. She loved to help the caregivers with things like the dishes and would call it “her work” – which she was so proud of. She was genuinely happy.
I guess the part where I went wrong, was assuming she still had a few years left. I somehow had it in my head we would have 3-4 more years with her. Where did I get that idea or those numbers? Maybe it was simply denial? Who knows. Around the same time my Grandma was moved into the nursing home – my husband’s Grandmother was diagnosed with esophagus cancer. She was denied the possibility of undergoing surgery and was only given the option of chemo/radiation. Eventually she turned down both options and was told she would have less than a year. We understood and respect her decision, but of course it’s a hard thing for the family to accept. Looking back, sometimes I wonder if maybe the timeline that was provided for my husband’s Grandmother seemed so real, that it didn’t really dawn on me how limited our time was with my own Grandmother. I realize saying that out loud – how silly and childish that may sound. For months I was trying to make it a point to go see each grandmother once a week but if I am being brutally honest sometimes I would miss a week for one of them. As time went on it had become clear my grandma wasn’t doing well and I made it a point to start visiting twice a week. Sometimes I would go back a couple times in the same day hoping to catch her when she was awake. In my research on dementia I had read that something they may enjoy was pattern blocks so I ordered some from Amazon and took them over to the home. Below is a photo of the boat we were creating together:
This was the last time I was able to hear her voice – Wednesday July 5th. This is a memory I will cherish forever. Little did I know, a few short days later we would be told she has a matter of a few days to live. At this point she was sleeping all day. For some people, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense as to why you would continue to visit someone in that state, and honestly? I have tried to find the words to explain why it was important to me, but I haven’t come up with anything that really defines it. Some say they can still hear you, so I really wanted to make sure she knew she wasn’t alone. I went everyday to spend a few hours, and I can honestly say I am glad I did. I have to admit, maybe a little part of me was being selfish. I was praying I would be there if she happened to open her eyes and could hear me tell her I loved her one last time. A lot of that was because I wanted her to know she was loved even if she wasn’t quiet sure who was telling her… but another part was simply that that’s what I personally needed. On Monday July 10th, I was there with two of my cousins and my Aunt when Grandma opened her eyes. I can’t explain to you how that made me feel. We can’t ever be sure if she heard us but the way her body moved, and her face reacted made us feel she could hear us and we all had the opportunity to tell her we love her. My dad wasn’t there just yet but I was able to call him & hold the phone to her ear so he could speak to her as well in hopes she could hear him too.
Tuesday July 11th came. I got ready, and got Cameron off to his summer camp. I came home to tie up a couple things for work and headed over to the nursing home at about 9AM. When I got there, I walked inside and as I was passing the kitchen the caregiver stopped me and asked if my parents had called me. She said she had just hung up the phone with them so they probably hadn’t had a chance to call just yet. She told me “your grandma just passed a few minuets ago”. I knew my cousin and my Aunt were on their way so I called my cousin and as I looked out that kitchen window and told her the news, I started to break down. The caregiver offered to walk into the bedroom with me and I told her I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. She hugged me, and I thanked her for everything they did for my grandma. She told me “she stole all of our hearts”. This wasn’t the ideal way to get some news like this but it was just luck of timing for me to walk in at that moment.. and honestly? Is there really a “great way” to receive news a loved one has passed?
Coming home Tuesday afternoon and telling my son Grandma had passed was heart-wrenching. He burst into tears and after a little bit, the sweet boy he is – wanted to call his Papa and Nana and make sure they were doing okay with the news. He decided he did not want to go to the funeral but did want to send a message to Heaven to let Grandma know how he feels and that he loves her. We went to a park and sent off some balloons.
I wanted to do something special for my dad and my Aunt. Let me just say – it’s not easy coming up with ideas for a “gift” under these circumstances; however I think they turned out pretty nice. I did one with sewing themed charms for my Aunt – as that was something they thoroughly enjoyed together. I did a cowboy boot, horse, and horseshoe charm for my dad’s because when my dad was younger my Grandma helped him learn to ride and groom his horse and they even won first place a few times!
If I haven’t made it clear how wonderful Grandma Knight is – I’d like to do so now. Here is a copy of the Facebook post I wrote the morning after she passed.
“We lost a giving woman, a loving friend, and a devoted mother & grandmother. She was one special lady and the loss of her is felt deeply by many, (even though she lived a full life – 91 years young!). She was an incredibly self sufficient & independent woman. She had a heart of gold and enjoyed making beautiful quilts to donate to the hospital. When I was young, she would help me sew clothes for my Barbie dolls and teach me to needlepoint. She made a lot of my clothes for me and loved trips to the fabric stores. During the summer she would take me on her school bus routes so I could go on field trips to the desert museum. She used to put food coloring in my pancakes and would tell stories about my dad & his siblings when they were my age. Our family fought over her homemade noodles every Christmas. When my Aunt was teaching me to drive, the first place we went was Grandma’s house. It’s funny the things that might seem so small but we cherish so much. ❤ When I was 18 years old, I think the only thing scarier than finding out I was pregnant – was knowing I had to call Grandma and tell her. I was terrified but her response shocked me. All she said was she loved me & that made me feel like it would all be okay. She made Cameron’s first baby blanket & would bring him little toys as he got older. She would always compliment how well behaved and well mannered he was (having no idea it’s only because she’s there.. just kidding 😉). She was always thinking of her family (all 20+ us!). She was so proud of the Knight foundry, going to college, her home interiors business, driving a school bus, & many MANY other accomplishments. She used to say she was a “kind but strict” bus driver. That couldn’t be more true. She was that way in all aspects of her life. She never gave up on her kids, or grandkids (no matter how many crazy things we may have done ;)). She would tell me “her grandkids belong to her which makes us smart so we need to go to college and be successful”. She had this one jacket in particular that she wore often and loved to talk about. She found it in the men’s section and turned it into a women’s jacket. It was really neat – the buttons and fabric she added to it turned out so nice. She loved to tell stories about her childhood while drinking a Pepsi and munching on her peanuts. I’ll miss hearing her say “howdy-do” every time I called her & “glad ya got to see me” every time we saw her. We will love & miss her more than I can put into words but I know her spirit and strength will live on. She lives on in me and in all those who have been touched by the love, strength, wisdom, and beauty of her soul.❤“
I believe in signs from Heaven. Sure, maybe science tells us otherwise, but for me? I believe. So two days after Grandma passed I was sitting at my cousin’s house watching the kids swimming when I noticed this rainbow. I couldn’t help but think it was Grandma giving us a sign she was okay.. that everything will be okay. <3
The funeral went just as planned. The flowers we picked out looked beautiful, and I did pretty well up until they started to lower the casket. That was rough. We chose the theme with the ocean for the cover of the guestbook and the handouts for everyone for a couple of reasons but mostly because when one of my cousins had recently asked Grandma if she could go anywhere where she would want to go – she said the ocean. You may have read in some of my other blogs how important details are to me. With that being said, it was important to me to incorporate Grandma in my outfit somehow when I attended the service. I had a couple of ideas but eventually decided on this necklace she had given me years ago. It was perfect.
I also knew Grandma would be buried near our Grandfather and her service was going to be outside. Honestly, I normally only go out and replace Grandpa’s headstone flowers 1-2 times a year but I knew there would be more visitors on the day of Grandma’s service so I wanted to make sure it looked nice. I went to Michaels and picked up some flowers to take out there a couple days before the service – and even through the storms we had – they still looked just as beautiful by Saturday. <3
As I mentioned earlier, my son chose not to go to the funeral and although this may be controversial – I didn’t feel it was something I needed to force him to do. My husband stayed home with him and when it came time to get ready to meet up with everyone for lunch – he handed Cameron some jeans and a shirt to get ready. Cameron said “shouldn’t I dress up?”. Kris told him it was up to him and Cameron responded with “I think I should. It’s respectful”. My heart melted when I heard that. How stinkin cute, right?!?!! He showed up with black slacks, a white button down, a black vest, and a red tie. He was a STUD! <3
So, here we are almost two weeks later and I still can’t bring myself to throw out this small sticky note I kept in my planner. I would stick it on a day to go see Grandma and when I came back home I would move it down a few days in my planner for the next time I could go. It’s still a little hard to believe I won’t be able to visit her anymore. Today I was cleaning up my office and found a couple of things I had bought to take with me on my visits to see her (quilting magazines, a new remote with big buttons, etc.) and I couldn’t help but cry. Sometimes I hate that I am such an emotional person but I guess that’s just who I am haha. I know time will make it easier to accept, but I have to say having the family I do – helps now. <3