Monday, December 31, 2007


I got a phone call early yesterday morning from Sheryl, the home health care worker that takes the alternate weekend shifts with my Nana. She said that Nana wasn't able to walk anymore, that her legs had given out on her. When I saw Nana on Christmas day I was shocked at how rapidly she'd gone downhill since I'd seen her the week before. On that visit we'd watched the Lakers and eaten off the TV trays that she keeps in the den and she still knew who all the players were.

She was particularly excited about Andrew Bynum who is being schooled by Kareem on the skyhook.

On Christmas we watched the Lakers but she was basically semi-conscious, her mouth hanging open and her shoulders lifting with the effort it took her to breathe.

She was 99 so all things being equal she'd had a terrific run. She got her driver's license renewed on her 97th birthday something that finally spurred her to get the cataract surgery done in her right eye. My aunt told her that she was going to have to read the eye chart.

I knew that she was in the departure lounge, but she was hanging on with all her might. We never talked about death or dying because she didn't want to have conversations about that "stuff". Yesterday though, after getting the phone call, I decided that the stuff needed to be at least touched upon, if not actually bandied about. Adi and I rented a transport chair, something that she could ride to the bathroom and the kitchen table in, and we headed down to Nana's house.

I didn't call because she would've told me not to come. She never wanted to be a bother. She also was scared that we might call an ambulance and she wouldn't make it back home. So we pretended that we were in the neighborhood and "stopped by". When we got there she was laying down in her bedroom which was dark. I turned on the low light over the bed and crawled up next to her. She was breathing like a bird that's run into the side of a barn and is lying stunned in the dirt, all shallow and quick. She didn't have the strength to hold my hand and she it seemed like she'd lost most of her physical substance - the bones of her body and face stood out under skin, but there was no fat or muscle left.

I asked her if she was in pain and she said no. I asked if she was scared and she said "a little bit." She was so weak she could barely speak in complete sentences. Sheryl came in and helped her to tell me about how her legs had buckled and she couldn't get back to her room the night before. She said that Sheryl had dragged her down the hall. I'd heard this already and knew that Sheryl had put her on a blanket and pulled her back to bed, but I asked if she'd pulled her by her feet and Nana laughed and said yeah.

Nana had told Adi on Christmas day that she was unhappy about being 100 years old (her birthday is February 21) and she'd told my step dad that she was frustrated because she'd done everything the doctors told her, but she wasn't getting better. When her auto insurance came in mail not so long ago and we told her that she didn't need to renew it because her doctor took her license last year after her heart went into afibrillation, she was seriously bummed, like it was just hitting her that she ewasn't going to drive again.

So when we got there and I saw that she was hanging on by her fingernails I crawled up next to her and took her hand and told her that it was okay to go if she wanted to...

Her response.

"Where am I going?"

I was crying but that made me laugh because it was just so her. I couldn't really go down that road any further so I said that she didn't have to do this anymore if she didn't want to, that I would be okay. That we would all be okay. I tried to say that I was so grateful for the years of knowing her and all the love and fun that we'd had, but I couldn't get past the word grateful.

She let us stay for about ten more minutes and then she said, "Thanks for stopping by," which is Nana-speak for "go home now."

I told her I loved her and we left.

My mother called this morning and told me that she'd died in her sometime during the night. I like to think that even though we didn't have one of "those" conversations, some part of her heard me and decided to let go. I am so blessed to have had such a long and wonderful relationship with her and while I kind of wish I could have celebrated 100 years of Nana, I also know she would have hated that and she went when she was ready.

Most of all I'm grateful that yesterday, I stopped by.