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Farewell Grandma September 27, 2010

Posted by therealtinlizzy in Uncategorized.
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Farewell Margaret Dorothy Olson, born May 9, 1919 – my grandmother, mother of my mother, last of my grandparents.

I got to the Roost about 7:00 last night. My extended family in town had been sitting with Grandma all day as she’s been in hospice style care this past week at the Roost, knowing she was on her way out. Shortly after I arrived, my mom and aunts, the last family remaining for the day, opted to leave for their respective homes for the night.  I talked with Mom and planned to just stay with Grandma for the night.

About 9:00 my cousin Val dropped out to catch up with me and spend some time with Grandma, then left about 12:15. I called Lisa to sign off and wish her a g’nite, but after talking just a couple minutes, grandma’s labored breathing suddenly took on a very different quality. I told Lisa good night and that I would call if anything to report.

Watching and listening, I saw/heard her labored rattly breathing had shifted into a drawn out series of tiny gasps. “Gasps” perhaps gives the wrong impression, as though it were frantic, strained or panicky breathing – but it wasn’t any of those. It was a decidedly leisurely series of very small intakes of breath, like tiny sips of air, as though she realized she could just save herself all the trouble of the labored rasping she’d been undergoing and was settling into how nice it felt to just not bother with the whole affair anymore.

I sat watching her as this continued for 5 or 10 minutes (why does time seem to go wonky at moments like these?) as the pauses between her tiny sips of air increased, holding her hand and just talking to her. Then when I thought her breathing was truly finished, she would make another tiny sip, while I continued to see the pulse still fluttering in her neck. I patiently waited and watched. There was no need to fret or call in staff, I knew this was just going to be how she went, nothing to do but let it happen and let her go without any ado.

Once I was certain she was gone, I let the staff know so they could come in and confirm. One of the staffers came in and took her pulse, then just sat with her a few mins to confirm. Then, because none of the night staff are nurses, she let me know they were calling John, the guy who runs the Roost and is a nurse on staff himself, to come out and confirm her death.

For about 10 more minutes while waiting for John I just sat and waited with grandma, then I figured it was safe to call mom and let her know. Everything had already been planned and taken care of for the Green-Larson mortuary folks to come and pick her up, so there was no need for mom or anyone else to get out of bed and run over – everyone had said their goodbyes in the days before.  I said I would stay there until Norm Larson came to picked her up.

Through it all, while she persisted, waiting for her to go, waiting for her to be taken – the staff at the Roost were so attentive and compassionate, yet quiet and sweet and respectful. They treated my grandma every step of the way, before and after she was gone, with such kindness, dignity and care. And they were so kind and taking-care of us family members as well – it was profoundly the most positive and peaceful experience that you could conceive of for the process of a loved one transitioning out of life.

I’ve never been with someone at the moment of their death. I feel humble and blessed for the opportunity and circumstances allowing me to be there when Grandma left. I’m also grateful for her sake that everyone else was gone for the night so her transition was able to be free of any out-sized emotion or worry or hand-wringing, and that it could be a quiet non-fussy moment full of peace. I know not all passing is so kind or peaceful, and for the fact that my grandma’s was – I’m truly grateful.

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