Today, August 9th, is my sweet Grandmom's birthday.
I don't even know what to say. Until this point, I have completely avoided writing (even privately) about the loss of my Grandmom Miller. It's almost as if once I admit to these thoughts on paper or via this blog everything becomes real. All of the hurt, all of the suffering, all of the tears, all of the regret, all of the daunting thoughts of her permanant exit from this world - they are all real. This Spring was a ridiculously difficult time period in my life. I cannot even begin to express the emotions and lessons that were experienced in such a relatively short amount of time. I feel as though I aged several years during January-April of this year.
My Grandmom started having problems with a blockage in her intestine during late October (if I remember correctly). At that point, she was dealing with so many health/cancer issues that this just did not help a darn thing. Slowly, but surely, the blockage became worse and she was able to keep less and less food in her system without throwing it up. She lost more and more weight. She had gone in and out of the hospital trying to figure out the problem while dealing with the issues that come with radiation. We were fortunate that she was able to come home for Christmas, but she looked and felt terrible. Grandmom went back into the hospital shortly after the New Year and was sent home at some point during the month - the doctors just could not figure out what was going on.
I have no idea of the date, but I know that it was a Sunday - Grandmom had just had a major and extremely risky surgery to try to fix the problem of the blockage. I hate even admitting this, but I was scared to death to go stay with her at the hospital by myself because I knew that I had never been alone with my Grandmom during her health issues and I did not know how to respond appropriately, whether it be to a physical problem or to her discomfort - I had never had to comfort my Grandmom, it had always been the other way around. I grew up a lot that day. I cannot bring myself to describe the amount of pain that my Grandmom was in, nor the words of discomfort that she expressed to me for the first time in my life. I loathed seeing her in so much pain. The memory is almost as heart-wrenching as those last days of her life, just in a different way. I think that day was the true beginning of my realization of the horrendous pain and suffering that this world can bring. From that day forward, I tried so hard to keep my spirits up around my family, but my heart was breaking inside.
I should also mention that my sweet Grandmom, who was suffering so much already, was somehow the recepient of VRE - a terminal antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection - while in the hospital. If she was not already suffereing so much, I am told that VRE would have killed her eventually anyway. Don't even get me started on why there are so many diseases obtained and spread through someone's stay in the hospital. Because she was infected, her doctors, nurses, and visitors had to wear gloves and gowns in the room at all times.
Thinking about the weeks that followed is just plain exhausting. So many memories and emotions race through my brain. I will not do my Grandmom the injustice of describing her last days on this Earth, but I will say that they were extremely difficult for everyone involved. I stayed overnight at the hospital a few times simply to ensure that she was getting the care that she needed during all hours of the day, but my mom, aunt, and Granddad stayed a lot more often than I did. School was something that I did not want to even begin to bother with while I could be so much more useful for my family elsewhere, but I knew that, above all things, my Grandmom wanted me to succeed. You see, her father was a professor - he loved to teach, and he was really good at it; I am an English Education major, and I know that my Grandmom was extremely proud to have another future-educator in the family. I knew that she wanted me to do well in school, despite her condition, so onward I trudged.
One day, one of Grandmom's doctors made it possible for us to have a "special" visitation. They did not have high hopes for her surviving over the weekend and allowed us to surround her with ALL of her family members at the same time... puppy dogs included. Grandmom loved dogs - there cannot be a larger understatement. Her two Scotties, Barney and Molly, were her babies. Unfortunately, my phone freaked out on me a few weeks ago and I lost almost everything on my phone, including the original picture that I took that day; yet again, my slight obsession with Instagram saved the day - at least I have that version! To say that those days were extremely emotional does not even begin to sum it up - she had mostly lost her ability to speak by that point, although she was able to get a word out here and there; both my mom and Granddad (and the rest of us, for that matter) were terrified about losing her on either one of their birthdays; gathering all of the family together at once is a nice and yet horrible gesture as it is pretty much an unspoken "goodbye" for all involved and is just plain awful to experience on either end.
Here is Grandmom with one of her puppies, Barney, that very day. Molly was on the floor when this picture was taken. In the bed next to her is the stuffed animal named after him - I bought the mini Barney for her during one of her surgeries a year or two prior. "Barney" went everywhere with her, walked through every surgery and hospital stay with her, and is now in my Grandmom's casket with her... the moment I saw him during her viewing, I lost my marbles. I was officially done for.
I remember walking outside several days before this happened, broken and hurting, and seeing a single blooming rose in the hospital parking lot - I just KNEW that it was a word from the Lord to me at that very moment. Grandmom adored roses, and so do I. I knew that He was assuring me that, even though everyone was hurting right now, it would be okay... eventually. He was encouraging me to see the beauty all around me despite the pain and suffering that was surrounding me as well. Lord, I heard you loud and clear. My heart was breaking, but I heard you.
April 16th was difficult. The days following were difficult. The viewing was ridiculously uncomforable and heart breaking. The funeral was awful - so windy, dreary, and oh so very cold - the weather fit the mood perfectly. Mother's day was extremely difficult and emotional. My birthday was emotional but fabulous, spent with family at my Grandmom's and Granddad's house watching the OKC Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs, something I know without a doubt that my Grandmom was celebrating with us (she loved the Thunder; she watched just about every game). And now, her birthday. It has been a difficult day, but I have sweet people in my life that pray for me and encourage me when I need it most. I have family whom I love that I know love me. Most of all, I have sweet things to remember her by - memories, gifts, notes, pictures, items of her very own that I am now blessed with owning.
I love you, Grandmom. I know that you're always with us, even if we can't see you. Most importantly, you're with our Heavenly Father, and, praise God, you are in pain no more. Miss you always. Happy birthday.