For some reason lately I’ve been more of a night owl than usual. Probably because the kids have been sleeping in, so I stay up a bit later than normal. I was just about to shut my eyes to go to bed when I glanced at my phone on my bedside table one more time. It lit up with a text from my mom and it said that my grandma’s long term care centre called and grandma wasn’t doing well. I called the nurse at grandma’s centre to see if it was serious enough to come and say our goodbyes, and it was. Long term care RNs just “know”. I worked in long term care long enough to recognize the signs of when someone is dying too. She started Cheyne-Stokes breathing around midnight and I asked if she started mottling yet, as I knew from professional experience that once mottling settles in, usually there isn’t much time left.
My uncle is close enough to where grandma lived that he, thank the Lord, was able to be with her from about 2:00 AM. I’ll never be able to thank him enough that he was able to be with her so she wasn’t alone. The nurses provided amazing end-of-life care to grandma, keeping her comfortable with morphine and repositioning her as needed. My brother arrived to see Grandma around 8:00 AM and I left the farm as fast as I could get two kids and myself organized at about 8:45. With a couple of stops along the way, I arrived to see grandma just shortly after she passed away peacefully around 11:00 AM on January 6, 2016. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t there for the last breath, but I made it to say my goodbyes and I got to hold her hand still warm and pray over her and thank her for all she had done for me in her wonderful life.
I’ve always had a very special relationship with my Grandma. A really special relationship with her. Ever since I was a little girl I recall having nothing but love and admiration towards her and my grandpa, they’ve always been two of the most important people to me ever. Grandma was a nurse, who married a farmer, and I know she was so happy when I happened to follow in those footsteps. I wavered a bit in my career aspirations as I grew up, but I remember wanting to be a nurse like grandma, and she was the one to really encourage me to go into nursing. She found the ad in the paper for a new rural nursing program, so I applied at her suggestion and got in. I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in that program — the bond between nursing friends is something extremely special, and I know my grandma cherished her nursing friends until the very end. One of her nursing friends, who was also a bridesmaid in her wedding, came to see Grandma the morning she passed and I had the pleasure of meeting her. They have been friends for over 60 years and I know my nursing girls and I will have that same friendship until we’re ready to leave this world too.
Grandma’s advice for marriage is “I learned that to have a good marriage you had to have lots of patience, be forgiving and be generous of yourself. Be loving and communicate!” Here are some other valuable lessons I’ve learned from my grandma over the years.
- To be a good steward of your home. Grandma’s house, when she was still living in it up until 4 years ago, was immaculate. Always immaculate. I’ve heard stories from both her and my mom how grandma used to sweep their farmhouse kitchen floor at least 3 times a day, after every meal. I can say with certainty I’m not near as good of a housekeeper as my grandma or my mom, but I strive to be better all the time to make them both proud.
- Foundation for the love of cooking and baking. I will never forget stealing little pieces of the crust from Grandma’s apple pies and her pretending it “must have been a little mouse” that ate her pie crust, and not me. I wasn’t always a whiz in the kitchen, but I always paid attention to Grandma and asked for her recipes when I was in university and on my own. Her mother was a great cook, she remembers, and so was she — but not always at first — just like me!
- To cherish your family and friends. My grandma had a busier social life than I did. You should have seen her calendar, it was always full! She learned how to use the computer and the internet to keep in touch with us kids, she had a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account and when she lived at home she always always went to lunches with her nursing girls and often enjoyed wine on her back porch with her dear neighbour friend.
- Farm life is the best life. Grandma has told me many times through her life and from me reading her written heirloom to us kids. I know she cherished growing up on a farm, marrying my grandpa, a neighbour that she knew all her life, and raising their family on their dairy and grain farm.
- To read my bible and that Jesus loves me. I grew up with Christian values, but I wouldn’t identify myself as a Christian until 2012. I know Grandma prayed for me throughout my life, she gave me a beautiful gold crucifix necklace after her tour of the Holy Lands, gave me a Daily Bread devotional book at New Years 2000 and other things throughout my life to subtly let me know of God’s love for me. I knew she loved The Lord deeply, though she didn’t openly talk much about her beliefs…I could just feel it. In her heirloom her last sentence to my brother and me is “Remember — Jesus loves you and you are a child of God.” Grandma’s faith and everlasting love of Jesus is so comforting now knowing that she is home with Jesus and reunited with her beloved husband, parents, siblings and numerous relatives, and my dad.
I lived with my Grandma my 2nd year of university with the rural nursing program. Her doors were always open to my nursing friends, I think it was a fun time for her too, reminiscing of her days at nurses training at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton. Before I lived with her, in my first year we had a phone date every Sunday afternoon to catch up on the week’s events of nursing school. I even worked at St. Mary’s Hospital (the same hospital she worked at) for 2 months, the summer I graduated and lived with her again. Here are some more memories of Grandma over the years.
When I went into my boys’ room the morning I knew my Grandma would go home, I sat on their floor with them and told them I had to drop them at Auntie Laura’s so mommy could go see GG. I candidly told them that GG wasn’t doing very well and that she was probably going to go to heaven today, with tears burning in my eyes.
Ethan, being 3 years old and all, excitedly celebrated with fists in the air and said “yay!!!” when I told him where she was going. Braden interrupted his much younger and naive (to him) brother, and was quite shaken up telling him “Ethan! That is NOT a good thing!“. Braden and I have talked about heaven before, and he knew this meant that GG wasn’t going to be with us on earth anymore. He looked worried and then I told them both, “Actually…Ethan is right. It is a good thing that GG is going to heaven. We will miss being able to visit her so much, but GG will be SO HAPPY to meet Jesus. Boys — she gets to meet Jesus today! And she gets to be back with my grandpa, her husband again finally.”
It really is a good thing. Braden also pointed out that she gets to see my Dad again and that made me cry tears of joy. Ethan was concerned that I was crying, but for me and my kids, I think it’s a good thing to talk to them about what happens when people die and that it’s okay to be sad. However, I know my grandma will be rejoicing so I want to rejoice for with her too as we remember and celebrate her life.
I will love you forever, Grandma, and we will see you again one day.