Saturday, August 4, 2012

What Now?

There are three phases of life that are impossible to be ready for no matter how much you prepare: When your oldest daughter graduates high school, when your oldest son gets his driver's license, and when your youngest son gets a mohawk which grows out into a mullet.

The pantry moth infestation phase can also catch you off guard; even more so than the flea, head lice, and cane spider infestation phases because, how much trouble could a moth get into in a pantry, anyway? You'll never know until it lays a bunch of eggs in that open bag of slivered almonds on your top shelf  and little maggots start dropping down on you from the ceiling during dinner.

Do you need a minute?

And then there's the death phase. You never see the death phase coming, ever. Even when you do.

You can never predict your reaction to the death phase either.

My Mt. Carmel grandma died on May 15th and I haven't blogged since. Whodda thought?

I 've been expecting her to die for years, but when I got word on my birthday that the time was close at hand, I hesitated. I mean the last time I heard a loved one was near the end, the end didn't come for 18 months.

The timing was also a little bit inconvenient, because my husband had given me a writing retreat for my birthday and I was at that very moment in a secret, undisclosed location, near the football stadium in Provo, writing about . . . I kid not . . . my grandma.

To go, or not to go. That was the question. Close my laptop, check out of my hotel, and hit the road, or stay and take the chance that my grandma could hang on until the weekend.

I decided not to second guess death, or ask him to work around my schedule, so I hit the road. But first I hit the grocery store to buy a watermelon--her favorite--and some drinkable yogurt to get me through the four hour drive ahead of me.

I arrived at 9:25 p.m. By that time all of my family had already come and gone, except my brother, Eric, who was sitting at the foot of the bed.

"I think she knows you're here," said my cousin, Emily. "Look how her fingertips are turning blue. I think this is it."

I humored Emily, but that's not the way things go down in real life. In real life I was going to sit by her bedside for two or three days and watch her suffer. Maybe I would help administer morphine and talk story about our good ol' summer days in Mt. Carmel. Eventually I would kiss her goodbye and return home to my family, where a few days--or weeks, or months--later, I would get the call that she had passed.

I took my grandma's hand and stroked her hair, which was clearly in a state of shock. A state of shock rivaled only by my own state of shock when, 10 minutes later, my grandma took her last breath and died.

10 minutes! That's one pit stop--a drive-thru at Burger King, or a refuel at Maverick, or a trip to buy cheese curd in Beaver.

I did none of these things. I just drove. And drank yogurt. And listened to Dave Matthews.

Did I just happen to make it before the last grain of sand slipped through my grandma's hour glass, or did death wait for me to arrive so he could properly introduce himself?

Whatever. I'm glad we finally met face to face, because I got to see his softer side. I found death to be kind and considerate. Peaceful and compassionate. Almost joyful. It's life that twists the knife and stands back as we squirm. Death steps in and say "Enough! I can't bear it anymore!"

I thought I would burst into tears--loud wailing sobs--after meeting death, but while you are in death's presence, the grief comes gradual. My grandma was gone, yet she was still there, lying in her pink house coat and white ankle socks with tennis rackets cross stitched on the cuff. She was still warm and soft when my aunt Elaine climbed into bed with her and gathered her up in her arms, and when my grandma's cat, Boo, curled up on her lap and tried to bite anyone who reached out to pet her.

When my dad died I didn't know what to do with myself. I wandered around the house, in and out of every room, up and down the stairs, over and over until I ended up in my mom's closet, where I finally understood why some people never want to come out of the closet. After my grandma died I tried on her dance shoes from high school and walked around like Cinderella. I chattered and giggled with my relatives. I did the dishes and cut the watermelon.

"Let's stay up all night in here and talk," said my aunt Elaine.

It was our way of hanging on the moment--the last moment before arrangements needed to be made and plans needed to be executed.

But then my grandma's body got stiff and my aunt Elaine got grumpy, and at 2 a.m. reality set in that someone needed to come to the house and cover my grandma with a blanket, place her on a stretcher and carry her out of the house for the last time--past the 110 year old family home at the end of Tait Lane where she was born out of wedlock in 1924.

I stood on my Aunt Elaine's front porch watching the car creep reverently away past the family home cloaked in utter darkness below us. I shuttered. This was it. The end of the story. I was living the last page. The last remaining family member to grow up in that house was at the corner intersect on a stretcher, waiting to turn onto the highway and drive away forever.

After she disappeared, the air hung heavily around the house and I held my breath.

What now?

My oldest daughter would graduate from high school, my oldest son would get his drivers license, and my youngest son would get a mohawk, which would grow out into a mullet.

And I would clean out my pantry.


It's good to be back. Thanks for waiting.


Braden said...

I've missed your posts!!!! I laughed and then cried. Which is sort of what happens every time I come here. So sorry about your loss. You wrote it beautifully--but I can feel the ache in the words. Welcome back.

Garden of Egan said...

Very thought provoking and yes life is filled with moths and their larvae. They will go away.
But the pictures of your mullet-headed son will last forever.
So will the sweet memories of your grandma.

Jami said...

Yeah, death sort of did in my blogging too. I'm glad that your grandma's end was peaceful and that you were able to be there.

As always, you catch life, the lovely and the ugly, exquisitely.

springrose said...

I am so sorry she is gone from this earth for you to hug. But she is still there giving your spirit hugs each time you think of her. I don't know why I felt better when my Grandmother passed away and I was there to watch then when my Grandfather passed away in the middle of the night with no one there. I think because he was alone, and I didn't want him to be alone. I'm glad she had loving family around her! So glad you are back!

Momza said...

This needs to be shared, again and again and again.
Much love to you.

Becca said...


It's good to have you back. I've missed you, you know.

I am LoW said...

Oh wow. Glad to hear from you here, sorry to hear the topic.

I now have 3 out of 4 graduated from high school. And I have a cat named Boo.

Sadly, I don't know what else to say. My mom's mom is still living, but she has made no attempt to contact my siblings and I since I was in 3rd grade. I wish I had a Gramma like yours, to love and adore.

Kritta22 said...


I love you.

That is all.

I am LoW said...

Uh, 3 out of 5. I have 5 kids, silly me..

The Crash Test Dummy said...

Oh my, I feel like I'm at a family reunion. ;) It is so good to see all my besties again. LOVE YOU GUYS! Thanks for the hugs.

LoW, can't believe three of your kids are graduated! But have you ever had a pantry moth infestation? (hee hee)

Kritta, the magic quilt is coming back to me. It has been through it's first two recipients, and the original one has moved to Utah and is bringing it back so I can find a new recipient. Can you believe it?

Springrose, yes, I know exactly how you feel. There is comfort and closure in actually being there to go through death with someone you love.

Jami, I thought of you a lot during the death process. My cousin Emily was there for all of the suffering and she experienced PTSS. Some of the photos she took of my grandma are similar to Van Gogh's Scream.

Braden, DeNae told me you in Deseret Book catalog. I am soooo proud. I need to buy that book and read it ASAP.

Garden, HA you made me laugh out loud.

So happy to see all of you again.

2busy said...

Oh my! What a lovely, lovely post. It reminded me of my last days with my grandma....and I swallowed a lump. Life does go on, doesn't it?

Glad you're back!

Dina Bybee said...

So sorry about your loss. Always love reading your posts. They're so... "you" it's like you're right there next to me while I read, I can hear your voice. Don't stop writing.
On a different note, wow, Tatum is graduating high school? Our oldest is starting kindergarten next week :)

CaJoh said...

So sorry for your loss. Life does go on, but the memories of your loved ones goes on forever.

Congratulations on your other major mile-stones.

Susan said...

I've missed you, Crash.

My dad passed away in April. I felt a lot like you did. It wasn't the awful thing I thought it would be. I was holding his hand when he went and I kissed his forehead before they rolled him off to take him to the funeral home. Man, I miss him. But he lived such a great life. And I'm super thankful he was my dad and taught me the gospel.

Before the funeral even got here, I knew we were supposed to move back to his farm to run things and make sure my mom was okay. So that's where we are now--starting a new Veterinary practice and enjoying the freedome that 325 acres of land brings. So while I miss him, I feel very close to him too.

I'm really, really sorry about your grandma. But I'm more sorry about your sons mullet.

Andrea SunnyDays said...

I'm so sorry Crash. I'm glad you feel like writing again. The webz hasn't been the same.

And we need mullet pictures. Who doesn't enjoy a good mullet picture now and again?

Martha said...

Glad you are finally back. Sorry about your grandma.

My mom has been in and out of the hospital for 2 months now. I was ready to fly home, but my sis and Dad keep saying no need.

Yes, big changes there and here. Josh leaves on Sunday. I'm super happy, but sorta sad. When Adam comes home I'll feel better I think.

Miranda said...

oh how I've missed your posts and your humor.

The Mom said...

Thank you. For your thoughts and for your efforts to write them. I'm sad your grandma died. I'm glad I got to know her a little through your writing. We were talking about lightning last night at dinner, and Darcie remembered that your grandma got hit by lightning. Her legacy lives on!
((HUG)) When are you ever coming back to visit??

Sandi said...

what a come back! I always feel so much wiser after reading your posts...and the comments following it. I might have to break into a Celine Dion song! Welcome back :)

Mamasan said...

Missed you and am glad your back. So glad you got to be with your grandma in her last minutes.

Marissa is head back your way in a week. I am still adjusting.

I had the infestation. That is why I keep all of my dried beans, coconut, and nuts in the freezer. Not one Costco item. Just dry goods. It is a mystery to my husband, but I just don't want those little buggers in my food ever again.


Brittany said...

Um, wow. Your What Now post is SOOO much better than the What Now post I wrote at about the same time. But if it takes a moth infestation and a grandma death to be this good, I'll stick with mediocre.

DeNae / SHP said...

I didn't know you'd written this when we were together last weekend. It's one of your best, Deb. And I'm glad to see you here again, too, even though we see each other IRL. When my dad died, my blog friends were a surprising source of comfort and kindness. I'm happy to see the same has happened for you. xoxo

Kazzy said...

I hadn't checked my reader before we met in Bear Lake or I would have put my arms around you and squeezed you tight. You captured beautifully the sadness and almost euphoria that happens when an old person we love dies. I love this post.

Donna said...

thank you for coming back...I have missed you. xxoo

Ken Craig said...

This post made me feel that if I ever needed to be comforted during a grieving period, I would choose you to come stay with me. I could feel warmth in the midst of this hurt. Love to you and your family.

Nutty Hamster Chick said...

Oh my goodness, it is such a family reunion. I here I am three weeks late. I was out of cyber space for about a month. So glad to be back and to have stumbled onto this beautiful post. I hate it when events in life make it so hard to post. I have thought of you and wondered how busy you must be to not have time to post, but his makes more sense, because business never stopped you before. I think it would be magical if the magic quilt did come back to you and then it worked it's magic on you. Just a thought. So glad that you made it in time. Regret is even more painful than grief I think. Big hug.

The Mom said...

Are you ever going to blog again?

Mariko said...

You hit every true chord.