Gone From My Sight

Monday, January 13, 2014

Happy Monday! I'm not sure if such a thing exists, but I'm wishing you one anyway. I hope everyone had a nice weekend. I certainly did, and I'll be working on a party recap as soon as I remember to upload the photos that I took on Saturday night. Sunday... I did exactly 0 interesting things on Sunday. Thanks to my methotrexate, I felt like my limbs weighed about 900 pounds each, so doing anything took exorbitant amounts of energy. The only real thing I accomplished was removing the duvet cover from the duvet so it could be washed, and then fighting to get the damn thing back in there.

Side note: Why are duvets so complicated? I love having one, and definitely prefer it over a regular comforter or a quilt, but they're seriously a pain in the ass. We don't wash our cover very frequently (because nothing really makes it dirty unless a cat pukes on it... thanks, guys) and so every time, I forget how I got the duvet back in there. I also use duvet clips because otherwise, the entire thing ends up puddled in the bottom of the cover and all we have on the bed is empty cover, which isn't fluffy or warm and completely negates the purpose of having a duvet in the first place. The duvet clips are supposed to make things easier, but every time, I forget exactly how to put them on and it involves turning the cover inside-out and some kind of duvet acrobatics. In the end, the duvet is back in the cover and I guarantee that next time I have to do that, I'll forget how I did it this time and we'll repeat this process all over again.

But enough about being a permanent passenger on the struggle bus to duvet-ville. Some serious stuff, now.

My grandma, Ruth, is 92. She's my dad's mom and is my last grandparent. My dad's dad died when I was 2, and my mom's parents died when I was 9 and 18, respectively. I was really close to my Mom-Mom (my mom's mom, aptly named), but my other grandparents... not so much. So it is with this grandmother. She's lived in FL my entire life and neither my brother nor myself have had a real relationship with her. She's a very sweet lady and has had an interesting life (she was a nurse in the army!) and I have nothing bad to say about her... but other than that, I wouldn't say that I'm terribly attached to her. 

For the last couple of years, Grandma has not been doing well. A few times this year alone, she's had a few health scares that we thought were "the end". She always manages to pull through, and the running joke is that she'd outlive us all because "they don't make them like they used to". About 3 weeks ago, she had surgery to repair a prolapsed rectum and unfortunately, they had trouble getting her off of the ventilator. She was in a medically-induced coma for a few days, was diagnosed with infectious peritonitis, and spiked a fever. Eventually, they were able to extubate her, after which she was on bipap and then eventually was breathing on her own. Everything was "working" fine, as far as her physical body was concerned, but she never regained speech or purposeful movement, and essentially stopped responding to the external environment. They ran a bunch of tests, all of which showed nothing that needed to be fixed that could be causing these problems, and the final conclusion was that she is in a semi-vegetative state from which she will not recover. As such, she was moved to hospice care over the weekend and they've withdrawn fluids and nutrition. They will be starting a morphine drip soon. We are essentially waiting for her body to die.

I feel kind of horrible because I am not incredibly torn up about this. Yes, she is my grandma and yes, death is inherently sad, but I am nowhere near as upset as I was when my Mom-Mom died, or even when my friend's sister (who I barely knew) died. Really, I am more sad for my dad, who is obviously taking this very hard. He feels guilty that she is dying this way, even though she made all of these decisions for us in her living will, which was kept up to date throughout her life. I can't imagine what it is like to have a parent die, because I feel like it must make you think about your own mortality in a way that you hadn't previously. Also, for most people, who knows you better than your parents? Even if you don't have a great relationship with them, they are an incredible link to your past and where you came from. The entire thing is just... sad. My friend Michelle, who is a doctor, said it quite well when she said, "No matter how sad it gets, just remember that it's ok to die at 92. That's what we are made to do and it is a natural part of life. She lived a good life and now she's preparing for her reward after this one. It's sad to say goodbye, but it's what is best for her." And it's true.

I was talking to my mom about it, and she actually had a really interesting booklet that I read. It's called Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience and yes, that sounds totally morbid. But it's not. It was written by a nurse and is widely used in hospice medicine. The language is plain and straight-forward, and even though it was kind of depressing to read about how a body dies, it was kind of comforting to read about the stages of dying and how someone dies. It is part of life, as sad as it is. At the end, there is a lovely poem called "Gone from My Sight" and I really like it. I think that I'd like to read it at my grandmother's funeral, if I am given such an opportunity. I don't know what happens after we die (as no one has come back to tell me!), but I do think that this is not the end. Energy has to go somewhere, right? Regardless, I think the sentiment of this poem is just lovely:

Gone from My Sight
Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone"

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

I just like to think that someone, hopefully Leo (my grandfather) is waiting for her and will say, "Ruth! I've missed you!" They were apparently very much in love when he was alive, and I know she misses him.  I think my favorite line is, "Her diminished size is in me -- not in her," because it makes me think about how we can keep the memories of someone alive, just as large and wonderful as the person who created them, even in their absence. That I am in control of how I remember someone, and that in death, the person is not diminished in spirit or soul, but only in body.

Anyway, I just wanted to get my thoughts out on that. I'm unsure of how the rest of the week will go, what with possible impending plans to fly to Florida for a funeral, but... we'll see.

Thanks for listening, all.

- A

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