As many of you know grandmother is dying, it will be a great loss to the world, and there will be a tribute post to her when I am ready, but that is not today. Instead I'd like to talk a little bit about what it's like to be living in the same place as a person who is dying. The first thing you will notice is your friends and non-immediate family will offer a lot of thoughts and prayers, they will say things like "I'm sorry for your mom/grandmother's struggles", they will shy away when you offer information about the dying process. They will not use the word die. Typically these friends and family will be okay with you talking about being sad, angry, confused, hurt but there's always a shift in comfort about three to five minutes into the conversation. To which you have to make a quick emotional u-turn to prevent the person from feeling uncomfortable about the death of your loved one.
You will want people to listen, but you also want them to leave you the fuck alone while you mourn your loved one who isn't quite dead yet. Again no one wants to say die. We live in a culture where death is mysterious and shrouded. You will find yourself getting up at six in the morning so you can lay in your grandmother's bed and wish she would hold on forever and that she would let go now simultaneously. You will want her pain to end but you will not want her to end, but you know deep down that the only way the pain will end is when she dies. Your tiny human brain can't really connect those two things, so you walk around like a zombie.
Your space will fill with strangers, ones that you have no choice but to immediately trust, because they are the nurses, the aides, the social workers, the chaplain, they all deserve your trust, they're going through this war with you. You do everything you can to help, you skip outings, you slow down your career and settle, at least just for a little while.
Then there's the deterioration, watching someone you love slide down a hill that has no way back up is impossible. It's physically painful to watch someone who used to have so much life in her, even when that life was yelling at you is no longer be able to sit up without help. You find the medicinal smell of her room off putting, like you're not quite in her room anymore, and the flowers that were sent with good intentions have that sweetness associated with the funeral home. The smell that covers up death.
The other day I learned what the symptoms were for each time period of hospice, starting with one to three months and ending with minutes. I think of all of the preparation that I've had that was the thing that hit me hardest, I'm a person who needs hard facts, I like hard facts, ask any of my friends I'm almost annoying about it (I might actually be annoying about it). Seeing the words black and white on the page was what solidified this for me, I don't know if there will be anger and bargaining or any of the other stages.
I do know that being here is the most rewarding and difficult point in my life so far, I'm tired, and I'm not even the one doing the heavy lifting. I'm isolated from my friends, because it's hard to talk about watching someone die. It's hard to watch someone die, of course this is only part of the story, I'm painting a picture here that tries to balance the comfort and the pain, but do not mistake that balance as what is truly happening. It is darker here than I ever thought possible, I wish I could sugarcoat it, but there is no sugarcoating it.
So, her house, hospital, funeral home, the great memories you've had here, the complicated dark and twisted feelings you've had here, it all kind of fades away when only one thing matters, at least for now; because you love her, because she helped raise you.