Beginning last Wednesday, my grandma has been in bed. She began her time in bed in a sleepy state with fairly regular moments of lucidity.
Friday her bath aid, Pat, came in and made all kinds of unnecessary (in my expert opinion) decisions: grandma would use Depends. Grandma would use a hospital bed. Grandma would die by the end of the weekend.
I'd like to state that the bath aid was wrong at every turn.
The weekend was long and quiet; when hospice isn't visiting and church friends aren't visiting, the days are very long. My grandpa and me (and/or my mom) sitting in a quiet house. No radio. No TV. Minimal or idle conversation.
I stayed the night on Friday and Monday nights; we weren't needing to medicate my grandma (liquid morphine) because she really didn't show any signs of pain.
Monday night things changed for me. My grandma really seemed to be in pain when I turned her (every 1.5hrs). We turn her frequently because she wasn't able to move herself around as easily, and we wanted to prevent bedsores. Waking every 1.5 hours was hard, and I realized that turning her so often seemed to cause her pain. I suggested to my grandpa that we medicate her 10 minutes prior to turning, and we only turn her every two hours.
Hospice was back from holiday (Labor Day) on Tuesday, so grandma was visited by Elinda, our savior hospice nurse, Nancy, the substitute bath aide, and Peg, the LMP. Grandma was doted on all day; it was so good for her.
I received a phone call from my grandpa this morning (about 7:40am) asking me to come to his house (about 5 mins away) to help him. I arrived at his house around 8:00am and began to help him care for my grandma. Her breathing was strained, in the gasping way that accompanies the end of life. I moved her a little, heard a gurgle and didn't quite know what to do. I lifted her torso into a 45* angle, and then... a rattle from her chest followed by stillness. My grandpa was a few feet away from me on her opposite side.
I can say with authority that it isn't always easy to determine if one has departed this realm.
Around 8:00am PDT on September 8, 2010, my grandma, 78 years of age, took her last breath in my arms.
My mom, my aunt and I bathed her, lotioned and perfumed her, dressed her and prepared her for her final journey out of her house never to be seen by us again. I stood at the window by her front door as she was driven away from the house, the way she always did when I drove away. I wanted to wave good-bye to her like she always did to me, but I couldn't quite raise my hand.