Happy Birthday, Grandmom

This post has been haunting me all day long.

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.

The beginning of February (somewhere within the first few days) was the last time that my sweet Grandmom went into the hospital.  She stayed there until the day she died, moving from floor to floor, room to room, depending on whether or not she was in ICU after another surgery or the level of care that was necessary to keep her alive, then the level of care needed to keep her comfortable during her last days.  I hate even typing this - reliving the memories of months of visiting her in the hospital, in that same damn tower, in that same stupid bed, with those same ridiculous elevators and parking issues.

Let me pause for a moment and explain about my Grandmom's character.  She was a teeny tiny woman who was relatively quiet, but by no means did this signify her not having an opinion; she simply displayed tact and grace at ALL times - I kid you not.  I never heard her speak an ill word of any single person (well, except for maybe politicians, but that's another story).  That's probably where my mom gets that trait, and I know that my Grandmom took after her mother in that area of her personality; I only wish that I had that same tact and grace, but I seem to have quite a bit of my Granddad Miller in me.  My Grandmom did not complain - EVER - not about people being late, not about the heat, and never about herself.  Especially not about herself, even the effects of chemo, radiation, colostomy and urostomy bags, surgery, being in the hospital, NOTHING.  She did, however, whole-heartedly appreciate and cherish kind words or actions from those around her, and she especially loved flowers.  Roses were her favorite - something that I think she passed down to her daughter and then to me.  The following pictures are of a boquet that Patrick and I brought to her in the middle of February; we were leaving for the weekend to go see "Wicked" with my dad, stepmom, and two sisters and wanted to leave behind a cheerful sentiment while we left... we felt awful leaving her and really had no idea if she would be around when we got back.

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.

My sweet Grandmom, Erin Dale Miller, passed away on April 16, 2012.  She left us sometime around 1:45 in the morning if I remember correctly.  I remember staying with her, my mom, and my Granddad that evening and into the night.  Grandmom had held on an entire two weeks longer than the doctors thought was even possible - LORD was that woman strong-willed!  She had a fight to live like I have never seen.  I remember the last time I saw her, barely living - stroking her soft, curly gray hair, giving her a kiss on her head, choking back the tears, and saying goodbye.  I remember walking out to the parking lot with my mom - first to the garage, then she drove me to my car in the lot.  We talked about a lot of things, about her memories of losing her own Grandmom, we talked about how badly my Grandmom wanted to see her future grandbabies, and we cried.  She texted me shortly after 2:00am, letting me know that my sweet Grandmom was gone. For good.  I remember expecting that text (I told my mom to text me, not to call, when there was news... we knew that it had to happen that night).  I remember waking up to the text (which never happens).  And I remember lying in my bed, sobbing for the Grandmom that I had lost, for the Grandmom who I knew was going to leave, for the Grandmom that I so deeply love, for my family who had lost the person who had held us all together.

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.

(P.S. - I'm going to the outlet mall this weekend for the first time, and I will be thinking of you!)


  1. Nicole - This is beautiful. What a great tribute to your Grandmother. It took me almost 10 months to really write about Jason. It comes much easier now. Have a great weekend and enjoy your waffles.

  2. Beautiful, Nicole. I'm so sorry for the pain you've endured and I hate the sin and curse of the Fall with extra passion after reading this. Thank God for Christ and for hope and that, despite our sin and failures, He teaches us to love others like you loved your Grandmom. Sweet grace of God. Thank you for sharing this story - what a beautiful woman your Grandmom was.


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