I walk through the doors of the hospital, clutching the hand of the strongest person I know.
The hospital itself swirls with memories of life events too complex to feel while simultaneously dealing with the process of losing a second grandma in a four month span. My ICU stay and subsequent week long stay on the mental health floor. The surgeries I endured while pregnant with the Munchkin; her eventual birth and walking out the doors without her in my arms. A recent trip to retrieve an item left behind by my grandmother during a stay and LittleBrother asking, “Is this where Big Mamaw died?”
I push it all down, push it back into the place that I hope remains hard to retrieve on other days like these. That’s a difficult realization in itself: There will be other days like these.
We wait for the elevators to take us to the fourth floor. Only two at the bank of four go all the way to the fourth floor, but pressing the up button calls for all of the elevators. Other people who arrived to wait after us extend an arm, ushering us toward their elevator—the one that doesn’t lead straight to the death floor.
“No, I’m sorry. We’re waiting for the elevators to go to hospice.”
Their eyes drop to the floor immediately and they quickly step inside their elevator, the safe one.
I learned last time that nothing can prepare you for the visual representation of dying. My paternal grandmother looked nothing like the fierce woman I knew when I walked into the hospital that June day. And yesterday, a blustery but sunny November morning, my maternal grandmother looked nothing like the grandmother I woke up early to have tea at her kitchen table one sleepover. She taught me to pour milk in my tea cup, to mix in the sugar. I don’t like milk and sugar in my tea, but I did it anyway. Because she did.
The bed sits low to the ground, a safety precaution from when she tried to get out of bed while on the morphine they’re pumping through her body to ease the pain of the leukemia that’s killing her both too slowly and too quickly. Her husband sits in the brown leather chair next to her head, staring at the second woman he’s loved and watched die. I watch him watch her and think the world too cruel, too painful for words. Later my mom told me as we stood in the family room of the hospice that he believed he was a jinx, that it’s all his fault. There are no words of comfort to heal a man’s forever broken heart at losing two wives to cancer.
I touch the quilted blanket set across my grandmother’s body. Mom tells me volunteers make them out of loved ones favorite clothing and donated to the patients who come here for service, for caring, for their transition from life to death. My fingers trace along a strip of shamrocks, a strip of children, a strip of leaves. My husband points out how all the seasons are represented. We have been here in this place in summer and now in fall. I do not wish to return in winter.
We stop in the living room to look at the view. We walk the hall to the kitchen to grab some too-strong coffee that we don’t really drink; we just need something in our hands to distract ourselves.
I take my husband to the chapel and I sit by the window. The chair squishes down and pulls me in, surrounding me with the love and tears and faith and heartbreak of all who sat in it before me. I have sat in it before; I sat in this chair, my phone in my hands, texting a trusted friend with a question that I still don’t have the answer to even now. “Is it okay to pray that she goes?” It still feels wrong. It still hurts so deeply.
We sit and look out over the countryside. We can see further than last time, the leaves falling quickly now around the oranges and yellows; bare brown branches reach skyward, waiting for the next thing to happen.
I stand and grab a prayer stone and pray. My prayers feel empty and useless; what prayer can I even offer in light of all my family endured over the past few months? And still, I pray. It is my default; it is what I do when I can do nothing else. I drop the prayer stone into the glass container, the second in four months.
And then I sit. I sit at the foot of my grandmother’s bed as her breathing sounds like the breathing of my other grandmother’s last day. The memories come quick and hard and my chest aches with the pain of loss, of remembering, of everything, of nothing. I sit and I stare and I try to reach for memories deep within, but all I can think of is how hard this feels and how so very alone I feel trying to make sense of it all. I look at her face and I see her; I look at her face and I don’t see her. She makes a small noise, and I hear her. Her voice.
It is time to go. We need to get back to the children, get them to evening dentist appointments scheduled months and months in advance. We need to go about the living which feels awful and wrong.
I bend at the waist, not wanting the memorize the changes in her face, so I memorize the colors of the nightgown she is wearing. Pinks and purples with blues, a large, pastel floral pattern. I touch the fabric; it feels soft and cool against her warm skin. I catch my breath.
I kiss her temple. I leave the room.
And once again, I walk out of that hospital without someone I love.
Apparently the Pittsburgh 10 Miler is in six days. That’s interesting.
Maybe a little terrifying? I mean, last year, I ended up with an injured foot after the race. The two weeks between the Columbus Half Marathon and the Pittsburgh 10 Miler and the fact that I didn’t cut my mileage very much at all between the two races meant that I ran myself straight into a boot for not one but three weeks. (The three weeks came about because I didn’t listen to doctor’s orders the first week. Oops.)
And so I took a different approach this year. It helped that three weeks exist between the two races. I decided not to run long. I ran long on October 19th—13.1 miles long. Then I, in essence, tapered again for the 10 miler. I know I can run 10. I could, with the paces I’ve been running, set another 10 miler PR.
I don’t know what I’m wearing yet. I wore capris and long sleeves last year. I might go caprisa, tank, and arm warmers. So much of this week depends on things that are out of my control.
Here’s training this week:
Monday: 11,222 steps
Tuesday: 8,408 steps
Wednesday: 3.84 miles, 35:02, 9:08/pace
Thursday: 3.85 miles, 35.05, 9:07/pace, and TRICK OR TREAT! for a total of 10,995 steps
Friday: Rest Day!
Saturday: Ha, OMG laziest Saturday ever
Sunday: 3.75 miles, 35:28, 9:28/pace
I’m working on some intervals and a four miler (plus) this week. Or, that’s the plan. My maternal grandmother is in her last days in hospice care, so this week is up in the air. When my paternal grandmother died, I still managed to run the summer RunStreak, but 2014 has left me simply exhausted. I’ll do my best, and that will have to be enough. I’m simply hoping my husband and I can run the race on Sunday.
I guess we’ll see. (Hoping to) See you in Pittsburgh!
Goodness, I read a lot of good stuff this week. As a bonus, it’s now officially November. I’ve already subscribed to two new blogs because of NaBloPoMo and will continue to read posts and subscribe to new blogs all month long. I will share some of my favorites here with you on Sundays—as time allows. I have a race next Sunday. Sometimes I move link posts on race days. We’ll see!
Courage Today: I needed to read this today, now, in all that is going on for so many reasons, spoken and unspoken. I probably need to purchase some “courage” “today” bracelets. And maybe buy lots of them and hand them out to people who look like they need them at any given moment.
Self-Care for the Highly Sensitive Parent: Oh my goodness! Minus the fact that I do not homeschool, this is me. That said, I think I need to go back to waking up earlier than the boys. I think it would help my day start off right.
Trick or Treat: Minus the fact that my rural trick-or-treating looked different (it involved cars and coats and ten mile drives between houses), but oh yes, the present day stuff. I don’t know how many times I said, “Use your manners” to the boys during trick-or-treating. Interesting, isn’t it? The changes. Interesting.
Teamwork: This made me smile all the big smiles. Look at them go!
Why We Love Your Post, “Why We Hate All Your 13.1 Stickers”: I’m currently sporting a 26.2 and I don’t care if you hate it. Why? This: “We’re taught to show-and-tell as children. To be excited about something and project it. Then, we’re shamed for it as adults. If humans could stop shaming each other, life could be a far less miserable experience. For everyone.”
Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom: The writing in this piece is so exquisite. And true. And whoa. And everything.
The Ocean, Like Breathing (A Poem): The ocean is my place. My happy place, my breathing place, my everything place. So this poem hit all the feels in all the ways.
Talking to the Non-Adopted about Adoption: Lots of wisdom here. Read it and listen to the author’s advice: Listen.
Voices in My Head: Suz wrote this post in response to my Voices post. We also had some offline conversations about where the voices we hear come from, and she’ll be following up with another post soon. I look forward to reading it.
I’m especially excited to read all the new NaBloPoMo blog posts this week. Did you read anything great this week?
On Saturday mornings, I sort through the pile of papers that made their way home from elementary school in the backpacks of my two sons. The pile is always gigantic; it makes the tree-hugger in me twitch every day, every week. But how do you learn to write your letters without writing them? Once you learn to write them, how do you get better at handwriting without actually writing? And so the pile of papers with their handiwork sits on the breakfast bar every weekend, awaiting a thorough sort and toss. I’ve usually already made note of official notes and newsletters from teachers and principals and filed them accordingly.
But this sorting of the work of each of these boys always pulls at my heartstrings.
I’m not overly sentimental. I don’t save ticket stubs from dates to movies, concerts, sporting events, or plays. I think the artwork the kids bring home is really great, and I often take a picture of it—and toss it. I save a few pieces of great artwork—the one eyed spider, the Mother’s Day handprints, the pumpkin with nothing quite where it’s supposed to go—but I throw away the rest.
I struggle with journals, either individual pages or full notebooks. Journals are the best. I love seeing what the boys come up with as an important story to tell. One recently wrote about the race they ran together. One recently wrote that firefighters are “speshul” because they save people. I love seeing their world through their pencils and crayons.
And so today I came to a page with a drawing. It showed a very large building of some sort with a window sitting high atop the structure. In the window was a smiling person. I simply smiled at the drawing, because I like seeing how their drawing skills progress over time.
Then I noticed an erased word and arrow.
I looked closer.
It read “heaven” with an arrow pointing upward.
I called LittleBrother into the room.
“Hey Booey, what’s this word say?”
“Oh. So who is the person in the window?”
“It’s Big Mamaw.”
And then big, fat tears welled up in his eyes and ran down his cheeks. I put the paper down and rushed to his side, pulling him close for a big hug. He explained how much he missed her in between little hiccup sobs. I told him it was okay to miss her, that I missed her too; I told him it was okay to cry.
After we dried up his tears together, he went back to play with his brother and I retreated to my office to cry tears of my own. It’s been a very difficult year. My other grandma, my maternal grandmother, just entered hospice yesterday. We don’t know how much time she has left. My mom drove her mother’s mother—yes, my great-grandma—to visit her own daughter in hospice today. Thinking of all of the loss we’ve endured, of all the going and coming and living and dying and breathing and quitting and hurting and rejoicing still left to be done this year, I just feel a bit discouraged. A bit empty. A lot fearful. So very tired.
I filed the drawing in the “keep” folder. For as much as I want to forget the hurt and pain of this year, I want to remember a little boy who felt safe enough with his feelings to draw them, erase them, and still tell his mom and cry into her arms.
I haven’t participated in National Blog Posting Month, NaBloPoMo, in years. November is difficult and full. The boys’ birthdays fall in that week right before and sometimes of Thanksgiving. I find myself busy planning out their large, joint birthday party while simultaneously planning the Christmas extravaganza that follows shortly behind. The holidays start their snowball effect and suddenly the month is over, the season is over, and its a new year.
I’ve both completed and failed NaBloPoMo in the past. I also have regularly blogged every day for longer periods than one month… and not written a word for weeks on end. I come into the challenge this year writing a decent amount, here in this space, in other venues, and in my many, many journals.
I decided to go ahead and commit to blogging once every day during the month of November for many reasons. On top of wanting to be challenged, blogging remains a source of self for me. Life has been pretty difficult for the past few months, and I acknowledge that I’m struggling to make heads or tails of everything. While I don’t know if I’ll use the prompts or just continue the blogging of our life as I do, I know I’ll make a valiant effort to post something here daily.
I also hesitate to share that I’m participating in the challenge because, well, what if I fail? Yeah, I still struggle with that whole perfectionism problem. If I didn’t tell you about it and I didn’t succeed, then you wouldn’t know I failed. But I have told you. So now if I miss a day, you’ll know. Of course, I’ll know either way, so I thought I’d invite you along for the journey. Because… what if I don’t fail? What if we all soar together?
Now that I’ve invited you along for the journey, you should consider joining the fun as well. There are some prizes involved, daily prompts, a BlogHer PRO School (for which I wrote one of the lessons!), and a great community of other bloggers doing the same thing: blogging their hearts out.
I can assure you I’ll share a lot of words here, some photos, some birthday events, some thankful moments, some struggles, and whatever else I want, need, or feel inclined to share. I hope to see you along the way.