On the first day of training to be a volunteer with Oak Tree Corner, we did an exercise where we had to come up with different ways to say someone died. Passed on, passed away, went to Heaven, pushing up daisies, sleeping with the fishes...these are all examples of things people say instead of, "so and so died." Obviously, ones like "passed on" are used more often than "sleeping with the fishes," unless, of course, you're living in some sort of Sopranos world, in which case you might say that a lot. But I digress.
There's a point to the exercise. Kids find death just as confusing as adults, but the difference is, kids are very literal. If you tell a kid that someone who died went to Heaven, the kid might think they're coming back some day. Like Heaven is just somewhere people go on vacation. So we're taught to say someone died, not someone passed away.
After I did this exercise, I began to notice more and more that no one ever wants to say died or dead. It sounds too harsh. Too final. If you look at the obituary page, it's full of "passed aways."
I don't know why I'm talking about all that. Stalling, maybe. What I'm trying to say is that my grandma died on Friday, but I don't want to say died because dead is forever and that, well, that totally sucks.
My mom called me at work on Thursday to tell me my grandma had a fever and they thought she might have pneumonia. Later on, I found out that they might soon be calling hospice in. And I spent the majority of that afternoon running to the bathroom to cry in the stall.
My parents picked Joe and I up Thursday evening so we could go to the nursing home. My aunt and uncle were waiting for us. They'd already been in to see grandma, and since their eyes were red-rimmed from crying, I knew things weren't good. We went back to her room. She was lying in her bed, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't fall out, and she wouldn't wake up at all. She looked so small.
My dad spoke to her nurse and then we met back up with my aunt and uncle. The words, "end of life," were used. My mom called my other aunt, told her to come see grandma, but not by herself. Still, we thought we had days yet, to say goodbye.
Mom called me Friday morning. I already had the day off of work, so I was still lying in bed. She told me that she and Dad were meeting hospice people at the nursing home because Grandma still had a fever and wasn't getting any better.
I got up, got dressed, and was about to take Max out when my phone rang again. My heart jumped into my throat when I saw it was my mom calling. I choked out a hello and knew, knew before my mom even said it, that she had died.
I tried Joe's cell phone, but he was at work so he didn't see it, and I was getting angrier and angrier with myself because I couldn't find his work number. "Idiot," I thought. "Why isn't it in your cell phone?"
Finally, I emailed him and asked him to call me. My phone rang almost instantly and I wondered if I'd even be able to talk. I didn't know how to say the words: Grandma died. But when I answered, all he said was, "Do I need to come home?" and I managed to squeak out a "yeah," and he was on his way.
It was a strange day. I mean, obviously. What a stupid thing to say. Of course it was strange. But Joe came home and I cried. He made me eat breakfast. I cried. We watched The Daily Show. I cried. I talked to my mom and cried and showered and cried and did I mention I cried? My head ached from crying, but by the time we went to my parents', I had mostly composed myself. We met with the pastor to go over the funeral service and we looked through pictures of my grandma. We told stories and drank wine and ate pizza.
Yesterday, I walked in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and we took my sister to dinner and watched football and drank beer and ate junk food and it was almost like I was a normal person again. Look at me, I'm joking with the waitress and reading my Google Reader and cooking banana bread and watching Jurassic Park and you'd never know my heart broke wide open just two days ago. Don't worry, though, I found all the pieces and I think I remember how they go together. Just might take me some time, is all.