For the past eight years my sweet grandmother has battled Alzheimer’s disease. This week her battle will most likely come to an end.
The last year and a half she has lived with my parents and we have been her caregivers. This spring my parents needed more help than I could offer and added an in-home health care service and most recently hospice. It has taken a team of kind, compassionate, and dedicated people to help her along in this grueling journey. At times we have all felt like Samwise Gamgee doing all we could for Frodo short of carrying the ring. These diseases are Grandma’s ring and we have all literally carried her just as Sam did Frodo.
My parents’ dogs are extremely restless and keep coming in to sit by her and gently whine their concern. We all know the time is near.
We’ve been preparing ourselves for this outcome for eight years and yet my heart is still in pieces.
I’m so thankful I could be part of her care team even though it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I know she has felt my love even when she couldn’t remember my name. Even just a few moments ago as death is settling into her body she still managed a weak “I love you too” when I whispered ‘I love you’ to her.
My grandmother has not had an easy life, some from her own making and some by fate. She has not always been perfect but she has always had a heart of care, kindness, and giving. She also raised a pretty great son whom I call Dad.
It is a weird mixture of grief, sorrow, relief, and guilt churning in my heart right now. We are all weary of waging this battle but we know that when it’s over we are losers and in a sad way winners at the same time. I lose the body of my grandmother but the person of her I lost a little over a year ago. I lose the ability to hold her hand and tell her I love her but I get a big piece of my life back to do things that have been put on hold for two years. I lose the oral family history that I failed to get from her when her memory could still be trusted but I will have closure to a wound that’s been tearing at my heart for years now. I don’t want her to linger in this state but I don’t want her to die.
Death of a terminally ill loved one is so confusing. You don’t want them to hurt anymore but you don’t want to let them go either. Though many people have tried to write books about how to deal with death there really isn’t an easy way to handle it. Probably because everyone is unique in how they see, feel, and experience things, no two people ever really process death the same way.
So if anyone else out there is struggling with facing the death of a loved one and is experiencing some of the feelings and thoughts I am, you are are not alone. Our circumstances may not be the same, our grief process may not be the same, and maybe even all the feelings may not be the same, but we can find strength in grieving together.
If you would like to help in the fight against Alzheimer’s please consider donating to https://alz.org/