20 February 2009

Wanda (1927-2009)

You know those times when you look back and see how awesome and perfect God's power and timing is? Well, that was today for me.

My grandmother had been sick for, well, basically since we left for Jamaica. She was healthy as a horse forever and then, bam, she's not. So she'd been in and out of the hospital and chemo for about the last 10mo fighting biliary cancer (a large tumor in her bile duct). The tumor kept closing up her bile duct and giving her a lot of problems.

So it's been hard just not being around. Not that there was anything we could've done, but I hated not being there. My parents came to visit a few weeks back and during that we decided to come home at the end of February because things with Nannaw were looking rather... terminal. So we set our flights. Then things with her start going downhill even faster so we moved our flight up to the next day. We'd miss some community meetings and get-to-gethers, but frankly those didn't matter at all.

It was a bitter sweet trip from the get go. We were thrilled at coming home and getting to visit with Nannaw and everyone, but we hated why we were coming come. I was coming home to see my grandmother for the last time and I knew it.

We visited her as soon as we got there. She was drousy from meds but quite lucid. The tumor was causing bile to back up in her and this turned her skin yellow. I hadn't seen her since we left; she looked terrible. Rather frail and yellow as a Simspons character. I was stunned at first. We hung out in her room with the rest of family for a bit and went home. I think we visited her every other day we were there and each day she seemed to draw further and further away. On Saturday she was fixing her hair because I had my camera. But by Monday, it seemed like her body just wasn't cooperating. She knew who we were and what we were saying but she was difficult to understand; again, like her body just wouldn't let her communicate. Wednesday she was even more removed. She would be there for a minute and then she'd almost fall asleep. Her eyes never closed but it seemed like she would go off to some other place and then come back. All I could do was hold her hand and pray that she was alright. Thursday morning we left. And today my dad called me and said she was gone.

One week. Just like that.

I can't tell you how painful it is to sit there and watch someone you love deteriorate like that. It tears your heart to pieces. When you can see the end in sight, you just want them to be okay and comfortable till that time comes. So that's what my family did. They did everything in their power to make her as comfortable as possible. And I think she was.

It's hard to leave loved ones. Period. But leaving your grandmother knowing it was the last time you'd see her in this life... I didn't know if I could do it. I could barely let go. I think I said "bye" to her about five times on Wednesday before I actually left. It was one of the worst feelings I can remember.

So when my dad called me this morning and told me, everything just hit me. The fact that:
  1. God let my Nannaw stick around till today
  2. We'd so easily been able to move our flight plans up 2 weeks to the next day
  3. Our Peace Corps APCD walked the "30 day" paper work to leave through in one morning
  4. Nannaw was still lucid enough to talk to and visit with
  5. She didn't pass away while I was there (if she had I would've felt compelled to stay an extra week till all the arrangements and funeral were over)
  6. When she did go, my mom and her brother and Nannaw's pastor were all there with her
  7. She's no longer in pain. She's home. She's with her husband again. And she will be forever.
...All these things came rushing to me after I got the news. I don't know if I've ever been filled with such sadness and joy at the same time. I'd lost my last grandparent. It's not permanent, but it sure feels like it. She is gone and so is everything she knows about everyone and everything. All her stories and memories and experiences are gone forever. But my grandmother was ready. She had nothing left undone; no loose ends, no debts, nothing left unsaid. She knew how much we loved her and we knew how much she loved us. We all knew her soul was taken care of, so it was just a matter of keeping her company till it was time.

This morning was her time.

God is great. Wanda is home. And I miss her already.

When something like this comes up in life, it's interesting to see what happens to everything you've made "important." I'll tell you what happens to all my "important" things... they vanish. They're reduced to nothing and for a short time it appears my perspective on things is finally back on track. I do things everyday to change it and get off track, but when it comes down to it it all goes away and I've got new eyes. And I remember something that I should never have forgotten: After God and your salvation, the only other thing that matters in this life are people and how you love them. That's it. Everything else will end up in a junkyard someday.

Rule No.2: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

(I saw this at the Miami Airport and liked it. It's bigger than me.)