I have mentioned in a couple of posts that Grandma Harris has been ill. I refrained from giving details because she didn't want anyone to know what was wrong. At this point, I think the time for that concern has passed.
Just over four weeks ago she went into the hospital due to pain from some age-related abdominal issues. While they were conducting an ultrasound for that, they discovered abnormal spots, so they did a CT scan. Diagnosis: stage four liver cancer. As I have since learned, the liver is almost never a primary site for cancer. It's usually a secondary site where the cancer spreads. Which basically means that this cancer has been doing its work for some time now.
Understandably, she opted not to undergo radiation or chemo at her age (today is her 88th birthday). Neither did she want any further testing to find out more specifics about the cancer. At first, the plan was to go into rehab, get strong enough for laproscopic surgery, have abdominal issues repaired and enjoy as good a quality of life as she could for whatever time she had left. She was transferred to a rehab facility, but she never got any stronger.
When we saw her last week, she had been in the rehab place for maybe 10 days, and she was pretty weak. I think the thing that surprised me the most was that she didn't have enough energy to have a real conversation, and that has never happened with her before. She has always been so sharp, mentally, and we have had good, deep conversation until very recently. I think that's what I was expecting to do when I saw her, and it was hard when she wasn't strong enough to talk in that way.
In the past week, she has failed quickly. Today, the doctors are saying that she has only a few days left. The hospice nurses have started providing care for her right there in the rehab place. It is good to know that someone is there with her around the clock.
So tonight I am grieving. It is hard being so far away while this is happening. Since I really wouldn't be able to communicate with her even if I were there, I am probably not going to try to get home before she dies. If she has some time when she can listen, I am going to try to call and talk to her this weekend, even if she can't talk back.
Last weekend when I said goodbye, I was hoping it wouldn't be for the last time, but I knew that it might. So I am glad I got to tell her that I love her ten thousand whales. That's what she always told me. I'm not even sure anymore how that started. But it's how we've ended dozens—maybe hundreds—of phone calls over the years. I'm glad I got to say it one more time.
She has been an awfully good Grandma. We spent so much time at her house when we were little. She would always come and sleep in the guest room with us when we spent the night. I remember the blue tupperware box in her pantry that she kept stocked with goodies. I remember shrimp cocktail at Christmas and loading the cocktail sauce with horseradish until it reamed out your sinuses. Those were her words: "ream out your sinuses."
I have fond memories of walking with her to the Black Lane school playground, or to 7-11, where she would let us buy treats. I have very specific memories of the sound made by the metal-framed, yellow vinyl stroller as she pushed one of the little boys and I walked beside.
I loved dying Easter eggs with her each year. They weren't just any Easter eggs. They were elaborately decorated with clear wax, then dipped in their colors. She spent many hours perfecting the dot and stoke technique for the wax and I spent many hours trying to imitate it. That's something I can take from her and pass on to my family.
Because of her, I know about 10 phrases and bits and snatches of one nursery rhyme in Russian. Because of her, I (almost) always remember to put dates on photographs and keepsakes, because she would never let me hear the end of it if I didn't. Because of her, I love Jeopardy.
When I was in college, her house was right on the way to and from Taylor, so I would often stop off and see her on my way there and back. She always had a glass of iced tea for me. Her iced tea is like nobody else's.
My Grandma has always pushed herself really hard. Maybe it was because she was never quite good enough for her own mother when she was growing up. Now as she approaches the finish line of life, I have prayed and prayed that she will be able to cease striving and receive from the Lord his healing, his peace, his forgiveness, his rest. I think she knows God. She talks to him every day. But today I hope she will come to know him in his fullness, not seeing him as a displeased parent, but seeing him with arms wide open, ready to receive her.
Redemption is real. Times like these make me hunger for it more than usual. I long for the time when our Father makes all things new. And whole. My grandma has a chance to experience that sooner rather than later. May it be so.