Friday, September 16, 2011

Death and Family

Death and family have been very prominent on my mind. My family went up for a funeral on Wednesday of last week and came home to sleep. I woke up Thursday morning (after getting Alex to school) to a phone call from my mom saying that Grandma Holt was dying and I needed to pack a bag and get ready to go to Mansfield. After picking Dad up from the Cleveland Clinic we stayed in Mansfield until Monday night. Luckily it was Labor Day weekend, so we had that extra day to spend with family.

The whole experience of watching my grandma die was totally surreal. Even now I am really not sure it happened. When we arrived at the nursing home she was at Mom and Dad wanted us to wait before going back to the hospice room. Mom came out and warned us (really, she was mainly warning Alex and I) that Grandma was not conscious and she had an oxygen mask on to keep her breathing. I didn't even make it to the back room before I started to cry.

When I walked into the room, two of my uncles and my grandpa (Poppie) were already there. One of my uncles gave me a hug as I cried and told me I needed to be strong, because grandma needed our strength. The other gave me a hug and told me we should be happy. I just nodded weakly and sat down at the table on the opposite side of the room from grandma.

That probably makes me sound horrible, but I can't stand hospitals or nursing homes. The amount of pain in those places is beyond overwhelming to me. It makes me totally freak out.

After a while, my cousins and aunt came up. There was drama, and crying and anger, but we don’t need to get into that. We all took turns staying over in the hospice room with Grandma. Even I stayed one night. Oh, another thing about my family; it is freaking huge. There would come a point pretty much every day where I would look around and all but three of my seven cousins (plus Sarah, Alex and me) where there. Not to mention my three uncles, four aunts (Mom’s sister came to support us over the weekend), and umpteen million other relatives were all crammed in the hospice room. Add to that the fact that the majority of my extended, extended family was raised in either rural Ohio or the Appalachian mountains in Kentucky, it was a bit of a culture shock. As an introvert, that nearly killed me. I never had a moment to myself, and everyone had an opinion that they felt needed to be heard.

One of the things that bothered me the most about the whole waiting for grandma to pass was the fact that everyone just kind of sat around watching. At one point I walked into the hospice room and some relatives were sitting in a semi-circle around grandma’s bed just watching her. It’s like everyone was just waiting for her to die, like it was a spectator sport. It made me feel sick. It made me so angry. I left the room and when mom came out to check on me I started to cry. Of course that was the exact moment that some of my cousins came. Jen told me she felt the same and that we should be spending our time remembering the way she was before she started to decline. We gathered all the cousins and began reminiscing about when we were kids and the way she took care of us. It made us feel a little better about saying goodbye.

The thing is, we are not created to deal with death. Death is a post-fall situation. We were created to live with God forever, not to decay and die. I think this is why it is so hard to cope with the death of a loved one. Deep down we still know it is wrong. It’s like way down beneath the filth and tarnish the original image of our eternal God is still alive within us. So far, the death of my grandma hadn’t set in, it all feels surreal.

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