Saturday, May 11, 2013

Grandma Uni

Warning:  This is kind of a long post...but it's helping me to just process everything that happened over this past week!

My Grandma Eunice has been failing for the last few years.  Over the past few weeks, it was clear that her time with us was coming to an end and we were going to be saying goodbye sooner rather than later.  In late April, she was complaining of a headache so my Mom took her in to see the doctor.  They were told that she was looking at days to weeks left to live at that point.  Grandma was 86 years old and knows Jesus, so hearing that news was a little easier knowing that this goodbye was not the end.  She has also yearned for death (I know, that sounds terrible...but it's true), so you have a hard time willing her to stay on earth when she so desperately desires to be in Heaven.  That day I told her goodbye over the phone (bawling in my office at work) and expected a phone call telling me that she had passed away.  She, being the stubborn Wisdom that she is, rallied over that weekend and seemed to be making a turn back for the better.  The next week she ate for the last time on Monday (this was April 29th).  The rest of that week, her breathing became more labored, she didn't eat, and after Wednesday, didn't drink either.  We started to contemplate if we should go home sooner rather than later, knowing I might be able to see her before she passed away, but also knowing there was a risk that she could somehow come around again, so we would not be able to be there for a funeral.  On Thursday (May 2nd), I got everything prepared at work in case I would not be there to give my final exams - thankfully I have a really good Graduate Assistant who I trusted to handle them for me.  We also set everything out to pack quickly if we got news and prayed about whether or not we should go before receiving any official word of her passing. 

I spent most of the day Friday going back and forth about whether or not we should go...should just Evelyn and I go - because I was freed up from work and we could?...will Dan come with us - but he would have to miss work at a job he's fairly new at, and I was asking him to leave not really knowing when we'd be back.  I sat on our bathroom floor for about an hour texting my sisters and Dan, and talking to my Mom on the phone, trying to figure out what to do.  
Evelyn grabbed her phone and made some calls to help me out...
We decided around 11am to fly out that afternoon because my Mom said she seemed to be getting worse (she probably weighed about 70 pounds at this point, and hadn't eaten anything in 5 days at this point).  As soon as we decided to go, I had such a peace in my spirit that it was the right thing to do.  Not just because I might be able to see her again or because I was seeing my family, I just knew that God was going to orchestrate everything.
We scored on Southwest, getting the full row to ourselves, even though Evelyn was a lap child!
Beautiful Broncos sunset as we were flying into Denver
We got into Denver and drove to Wray - after getting our bags into my parents' house and helping Dan get Evelyn down (thankfully she slept most of the car ride!), I headed up to the nursing home.  It was a little after midnight by the time I got up there, and I was so completely not ready to see my Grandma in the state she was in.  The best part was getting to be the only person in the room (my parents, sister, and uncle and his wife were in the room as well) who hadn't seen her yet - so I was sobbing (full on chest heaves with snot everywhere...awesome) while everyone else got to sit and watch me. :-)  It was really hard seeing her that way.  Even though she wasn't doing particularly well at Christmas (the last time we saw her), she was still responsive and able to get up and about.  A completely different story that night.  Everyone but my Mom left to get some sleep after a while, but I stayed up with her for a couple hours, reading through a book that my sister had filled out with Grandma a few years ago.  It basically was Grandma's life memories - and Angie write exactly what she said in the blanks.  It was great to read through, and even remember some of the stories.
This was my favorite...I can just hear my Grandma saying this! 
(Dale is my Grandad...I never knew him because he passed away before I was born)
The next few days were spent waiting.  She told someone the week before (when she was still coherent) that we were like a bunch of vultures sitting there watching and waiting for her to die.  Again, something that made us smile because it was totally my Grandma.  My older sister and her kids got in on Saturday, so we were all home at that point.  Thanks to our amazing husbands, we got to spend quite a bit of time up at the nursing home with Grandma and didn't have to worry about all of the kids.

Seriously, Dan is amazing.  I can't believe that he so selflessly left work, not knowing at all how long we would be gone, and then pulled almost full-time Daddy duty for 5 days.  There were a couple of days where I was gone most of the afternoon, came home for dinner and bedtime, then went back up to the nursing home until after midnight.  Never once did he complain, and I know it wasn't easy.  I, apparently, was not a very good bed-sharer either.  We have a king bed, but sleep in a queen at my Mom & Dad's...and most nights, he ended up on the pull out couch in the other room so I could sleep in the comfortable bed and get some rest.  He blesses me so much.  I left this difficult week with a new appreciation for him and gratitude for having him to walk through this life with.  He also kept me smiling at the nursing home by sending pictures like these...
Our little musician
Onto the keyboards...
The best part of sleeping at my parents, is waking up with this face smiling at you...
One of the afternoons at the nursing home, Dad apparently needed a little nap.  Being the daughters that we are, we had to take a picture. :-)
We took the kids to the park one afternoon...ah, Colorado weather, I miss you so!
Evelyn and Kolbe (8 months) swinging together

She loved all the slides at this park!
And I got my Mom of the Year Award wrapped up!
(I thought Dan was coming down with her...)
Mom, do I have something on my face?
On Sunday night, I almost didn't go up to the nursing home after dinner.  Evelyn had a pretty rough night the night before, and I wanted to be at home with her.  Something told me to go up, though, so I did.  It was a really special night because everyone was there - all of Grandma's kids and grandkids (with the exception of one, who was in Hungary) were in the room with her - playing some of her favorite hymns, praying with her, telling her we loved her and it was ok to go.  We all decided to leave her alone after a while, thinking she had said she wanted to be alone when she died, maybe she was waiting until we were all gone.  Fun story of the night, because there were so many people in the room, it was pretty warm in there - and being the pregnant lady that I am - I was even hotter.  At one point, I almost left just because I was so uncomfortable, but I didn't want to miss her last breaths.  I could literally see my feet swelling.  As we walked outside, my older sister said her head felt like it was about to explode from crying, to which my younger sister said, "dude - Stacey's feet are about to explode!"  It gave us all a good laugh (and it was true...).

The next day, shortly after lunch, she passed away.  No one from our family was in the room, my cousin had just left, one of the nursing home nurses was the only one to see her go.  Fitting - my Grandma got exactly what she wanted.  My Dad and his siblings agreed to hold the funeral as soon as possible so we could all get back to life as normal (us in Texas, my sister in Missouri, my uncle in west Colorado, and everyone else just in general).  I spent most of that night and the next day putting together a slide show/music video for her funeral.  Again, Dan was a rock star and played single-Dad so I could finish that in time. 
Waking up Daddy!
Playing with her cousins (probably Evelyn's favorite part of the trip!)
Watching a movie on the iPad with the youngest cousins
The funeral was on Wednesday.  My sisters and I (and really, all of us cousins) wanted to be pallbearers.  No one took us seriously at first, but we got our way! :-)  Grandma had pretty much planned out her funeral in advance, and had listed her nephews as her pallbearers.  They were going to list us as "honorary" pallbearers until we told them we were serious (and showed my Dad just how serious by posing, acting like we were carrying my Mom's tanning bed).  I think for all of us, it was a way to be close to her one last time, and laugh - she always loved hearing us laugh.  We have many memories of the five of us laughing, and usually getting in trouble for it because it was at inappropriate times, but my Grandma coming to our rescue!
My sisters and I at the funeral
One of our memories of Grandma was that every time we went to her house, we got either a pop or a candy bar (and sometimes both!).  She had a refrigerator full of pop, and a kitchen drawer full of candy bars. 
This was the "grandchild and great-grandchild wreath" for her grave site.
There were just enough candy bars attached to the outsides for each of the grandkids and great-grandkids to take a candy bar home.  They also had a drawer in the back of the church filled with candy bars and asked everyone in attendance to take one home.  It was another special memory that we got to revisit this week.
All of the pallbearers!
(Notice who is serious, and looking at the camera...the granddaughters!)

My sister and I were laughing as we were carrying the casket here because there were so many of us carrying it, that every step we took, my belly would bump into her back. 
Again, just another time we were laughing that we probably shouldn't have been...but I'm sure my Grandma was smiling. :-)
Evelyn enjoying her candy from Grandma Uni!
We also got a good 'ol Colorado thunderstorm
(I miss the smell of clean, sweet, Colorado rain!)
Dan, Evelyn, and I left early the next day so we could both be back to work on Friday.  It was such a long, yet such a short, week.  Evelyn did great sans one or two "I really want Mommy" moments.  Dan was my rock through it all.  I am so thankful for my little family of 3.75!
Loved watching this in the airport...
Daddy caught this picture on the last leg of our trip sweet little girl(s)
It was the kind of trip that felt like an eternity and seconds all in one.  I am so thankful that we took the risk and went on Friday.  Getting to spend those few days in the nursing home with her were priceless and something I will never regret getting to do.  Knowing she is dancing with Jesus makes this goodbye hopeful.

A few last favorites from the slide show.
This was my Grandma and Grandad the day he left for WWII.
I just love this picture! 
 My Grandma and I when I was probably around 2nd or 3rd grade
Grandma and Evelyn, the first time they met (July 2011, Evelyn was 2 months old)
 These next three were all in October of 2011 (Evelyn was 5 months old)

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope
Because we know our goodbye is not the end
We can grieve with hope
Because we believe with hope
There's a place, where we'll see your face again
(Steven Curtis Chapman, With Hope)

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