Thankful To Thrive

What am I thankful for? I myself keep a short list in my head of all the things that I thank whatever God there may be for every day of my life. My huge family and friends are always at the top and then of course things like food, clothing, a home, a job, my health, all the modern conveniences that make our lives much easier to live and of course my fur baby. I recognize those simple things everyday and I try to show my appreciation as often as I can but there is so much more.

With Thanksgiving approaching I have been thinking more about all the other things that I take for granted; things that are not tangible but are far more important and vital to our survival. So many people in this world go without, they don’t worry about things like clothes because they fret over where their next glass of clean water will come from. But yet they probably stop and acknowledge their appreciation for the things I almost always overlook. It is disheartening to know there are people suffering in this world but that thought helps me to realize how truly blessed my life is and taking it for granted is truly the most selfish thing I could do.

Love. Life itself provides so much heartbreak that if you find love and someone to love you back don’t ever take it for granted because it may not last forever. It can be hard to distinguish the difference between love and lust sometimes but if the joy you find with that person is greater than the sorrows you face together that is how you will know whether you should fight to hold onto it or not. That’s all, love should not be complicated, don’t deny it, let it flourish and don’t chase after something that isn’t really there with the hope that someday it may present itself; life is too short for us to waste ourselves on something that isn’t real.

Wisdom. In our past we all have things we’ve said or done which may have led to an event we wish we could change or alter the outcome of somehow. Things we will hold onto for the remainder of our lives for the simple reason that we just cannot let them go. To do so might kill us. We’ve carried the burden so long that it has become a part of who we are; and it has shaped us into the person we were always meant to be. It is always painful but we learn from it, we grow, we accept it as a part of ourselves however hard it may be and we promise to never make the same mistake twice.

Hope. It is so fragile. It’s like a flickering light in the distance that we have to squint to see at first and frequently lose sight of but as we move closer to it, it will become brighter and eventually we will be able to feel the warmth from it. We can never let that light go out because without it the darkness will consume us until finally we feel no sense of happiness and without joy life is not worth living. If we give up on hope and surrender to the shadows we eliminate the possibility that things can be better.

Air. I am well aware that we cannot live without oxygen but I am talking about everything that surrounds us; the things in nature that can make us feel alive. Wide open spaces to run as we wish. The exhilarating rush of cold water over your arms as you sink down to the bottom on a hot summer day. The smell of cold air after a fresh snowfall. The warmth of the sun on your skin. The comforting softness of lush green grass on your back as you gaze at the night sky. The sound of the leaves dancing together on a windy day. A tropical sky so blue and so clear it feels like a daydream. Our world harbors so much beauty and the space that lies beyond our reach is so brilliant when you can see it away from the city lights. There are places where the air is less toxic and so much cleaner that when you breathe it you think more clearly. Without any of these things we cease to exist.

Self. We cannot deny the people we are. We have very little say in the matter and we do not get a list of attributes and personality quirks to choose from. We make decisions that can change the course of our lives and maybe alter our perceptions of certain circumstances but no matter how many times we relive the same situations our choices will always be similar because we are who we are. Changing yourself for anyone or anything will only lead you toward greater unhappiness; in the end that life you build will fall apart because it was never who you were meant to be and it was all built upon a lie. To blame the dissolution of a marriage on “we changed” is utter nonsense. You were just suppressing the person you really were. There are things about myself that I absolutely hate, but I cannot contradict those things. I have to accept the fact that I am not perfect and I never will be and by doing so I can take comfort in knowing that my life is really mine. Get to know yourself and cherish every quirk and flaw and when you do that is when your life and the lives of those around you will begin to thrive.

I hope everyone reading this and the lives you touch have a happy and healthy holiday. I am thankful for all of you out in this great big world of ours. I am thankful for every single day we are given. I am thankful that we have the ability and the resources to reach out to one another. I am thankful for love, wisdom, hope, air and a sense of self. I am thankful to thrive.

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Blaze Orange

It is hunting season. Every early November in Northern Minnesota when the trees lose their leaves and the skies turn grey there are little cabins that stand vacant all summer that begin to light up. The woods fill up with the gentle smell of smoke burning from wood stoves spread throughout the state. The forest comes alive with guttural laughter and the vibrant glow of all that blaze orange.image

There are so many family traditions in this world that I personally don’t understand. It should come as no surprise that my family’s longest standing tradition is understood by very few and misunderstood by so many. In this world hunting is viewed as barbaric and outdated. But the truth is that the most vivid orange thread that weaves through the soul of all hunters is the familiar walls of their hunting camps that have come to feel like home. The camaraderie and the bond that is strengthened every November with their hunting parties will always bring joy to this historic sport.image

If you were to take a poll I would be willing to bet that there are very few hunters in this world that hunt entirely alone. As someone who was raised to be a hunter I can tell you that hunting cannot be done without a strong support system. It just takes too much effort otherwise and it loses all pleasure. When I asked my older brother “What is the number one reason you hunt?” without hesitation he responded “Family. You’re all there with a common goal; it’s a good feeling to have people who understand you.” When I asked him what he would say to someone who didn’t believe in hunting he replied “It’s like religion; a person shouldn’t have to defend them self.”image

For me to stand on a pedestal and defend hunting might be slightly hypocritical because I myself no longer hunt. However, my reasons for giving it up have nothing to do with a corruption of morals; I just find it boring. I do think that those people who judge hunters might feel differently if they understood why so many of them do it. Most hunters profoundly believe in the preservation and conservation of our planet and they have an unrelenting respect for wildlife. When I asked my father why he hunts he said “I can spend eleven hours in the woods by myself and I love to be out with the master of the woods, the big buck.”

He is after a challenge and he never shoots an animal that is young and still thriving. He has been hunting many years and it makes me proud to know that he will never kill an animal just to kill it. When my father was younger hunting was necessary to keep his young family fed throughout the year. Now that his family is grown he is after a greater trophy; he wants to hunt the animal that could very possibly outsmart him and according to him; frequently does.

Hunting requires a specific set of skills as well as dedication, patience, diligence, endurance and respect for the weapon. Hunters rise even before the sun when the world is silent and still asleep. Even if you hunt in a party you and your hangover from the night before must stumble through the dark to your stand alone. There is a certain solitude that comes with being in the woods with only the wildlife and your thoughts to keep you company, that even the most expensive yoga class cannot provide.

My oldest brother’s response to the number one reason he hunts: “I didn’t think about work or any of my everyday stresses the entire time I was out. Nothing else can motivate me to spend that much energy just observing my immediate environment. And now I have some really exciting memories to draw on the rest of my life. Most of a person’s hunting happens in the off-season via memories built on the trail.”

Late night poker games, wind-burned cheeks, tall tales told by the wood stove, a seemingly bottomless beer keg, Johnny Cash and Johnny Horton, shit talk, fried venison, shots of whiskey and blackberry brandy, hand warmers, wool socks, rifles, memories and blaze orange…these are the things that make up a hunting season, not the number of deer on the pole.image

People have come and gone from our hunting party. Lives have been lost over the years but there is also new life and a younger generation to carry on the tradition. Our old hunting cabin burned down but we built a new one, a place to make new memories. In my family, attendance at the hunting camp is more crucial during Hunting Season than it is during Christmas. There are those who only come for the company and the party and even when a person gives up hunting, such as myself and my mother we all still pull out our blaze orange and bedazzled camouflage every year and join in the celebrations to support our hunters.

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Voice of Reason

 

"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." -Walter Winchell
“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”
-Walter Winchell

Lately, it seems my life has been in ruins. My job has been causing me some anxiety for reasons I will not go into. My grandmother’s death has caused a lot of added stress among my family that I was not expecting and dealing with her death in general has been extremely challenging. My love life has been slightly complicated to say the least. With all of that in addition to the day to day activities that can cause all of us some apprehension I have been feeling a bit weathered, lost, heartbroken and sad. My strength is diminishing and I have begun to lose sight of who I am.

But I am fortunate to have people in my life who make dealing with all the hardships so much more tolerable. In particular, my two amazing friends that can always lift my mood and distract me away from my breaking point; even when that’s not their intention. I have several amazing female cousins but no sisters and it can be difficult for me to connect with other women because let’s face it; most women can be catty, two-faced and just plain bitchy.

Growing up with only brothers can alter your perception on human relations slightly. Men usually tend to say what they mean and mean what they say and that is what I am accustomed to. There is less anxiety involved with befriending men because if a man answers your question you know he literally means his response. But women love to play games and they can turn on each other with very little warning. Also, we women in general have a tendency to overanalyze every single detail of our lives. From something as mundane as what to wear to the more intriguing questions like “what did he mean by that?”

Ladies overcomplicate things so entirely that I find it draining to maintain simple friendships with other women. It just becomes too exhausting and frustrating. My two darling friends however have the compassion that most men lack but more sense than most women and they come with very little drama, in fact of the three of us I am definitely the most girly. I will fully admit that I overanalyze everything and the two of them are my rolled up newspaper that smack the sense back into me when I wander too far off into my own delusions.

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down." -Oprah Winfrey
“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
-Oprah Winfrey

MR is the kind of woman that all others should aspire to be like. She’s got the moves like Jagger, she is genuinely funny, exceedingly intelligent, she is fun to be around, generous and incredibly kind. Of the three of us she is the oldest and the “big sister”, that does not mean that she scolds or lectures us, I only mean that she is never discouraging. She has a loving heart and can be selfless but if you anger mama bear she can get ferocious; fortunately for me I’ve never pissed her off…yet. She is always introducing me to new things and I have become more open-minded and a better person because of her. Recently she has gotten her heart broken and is forced to live with the same person who has so cruelly taken advantage of her kindness. Being stuck in such a living situation, most of us would never have the patience to endure it and even though she deserves so much better she still manages her life with grace and compassion.

“If you have good friends, no matter how much life is sucking , they can make you laugh.”  ― P.C. Cast
“If you have good friends, no matter how much life is sucking , they can make you laugh.”
― P.C. Cast

MV is a total nutcase; which is what I absolutely love about her and personality wise she is my polar-opposite but we have so much in common which makes it so easy for us to be friends. She is exuberant, confident, off-the-wall hilarious; she’s insightful, quick and fiercely intelligent. She is an amazing mother to her three young daughters who are the coolest kids and so well behaved all because of her. She is the classic “middle sister” of our little trio; always going along with whatever everyone else wants and volunteering to do all the work. She may not know it but she is brave and very sure of who she is and she never hesitates to stand up for herself and those she cares about. She is a no bullshit kind of person and she is always reminding me that I can do better for myself. She started college not long ago, typically people her age are afraid to start over but she is thriving and taking her life in the direction she deserves.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

At times I certainly lean on them too much just like the classic “little sister” that I am of our group. It seems that the two of them are always taking care of me. They discuss where to go and what to do while I sit in the room goofing around, hardly paying attention and contributing very little. I feel undeserving of their unconditional friendship and so blessed that the three of us have never once fought since we’ve known each other.

“Sisterhood was about shared experiences, trust, knowing you had people who would be there for you and would listen to you no matter what, and who could always tell if there was something wrong." -Michelle Madow
“Sisterhood was about shared experiences, trust, knowing you had people who would be there for you and would listen to you no matter what, and who could always tell if there was something wrong.”
-Michelle Madow

When I was younger I always thought that in order for people to qualify as your best friend and to truly know you it was essential that they be a part of your life from the beginning. But I know now that when you make a friend after you have lived a good portion of your life and they somehow fill a void you didn’t even know was there that can oftentimes be a stronger bond than the ones you forge in childhood; especially if you are holding on to longtime friends out of obligation rather than common interests or compatibility.

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”  ― Anaïs Nin
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
― Anaïs Nin

People tend to drift apart, not because they dislike each other or because of a falling out but simply because people grow and their lives take them in different directions and like so many others I grew out of most of my friendships from childhood. Now I have only a few childhood friends that I have stayed in contact with and even them I see so rarely.

Even though I have only known MR and MV a handful of years I love them so immensely that without them my life would be a little less colorful. I feel that they truly know who I am and understand the things I do and the things I have yet to do. They are supportive and I never doubt their sincerity toward me. I can always count on their advice and I know they will always be honest with me. I trust them and I can only hope they know that they can trust me.

“Friendship- my definition- is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don't have trust, the friendship will crumble.”  ― Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
“Friendship- my definition- is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.”
― Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It should be common knowledge but surprisingly it must be said that for all of us it is crucial to have people in our lives that make us feel comfortable with whoever we are and that maybe they push us to be a better version of ourselves when our lives need reviving; people who will remind us that we are enough even when we feel like we absolutely cannot stand to look at ourselves in the mirror. I know that from here on out my two best friends will always be that voice of reason for me when I begin to doubt who I am.

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fall Movie Favorites

I’ve already made it known that I love fall and it is my favorite season for all kinds of reasons one of which is the list of movies that I watch every year when the leaves start to change. Of course some of these movies are Halloween themed but not all of them. To me fall feels very magical, the season shifts and the world gets very colorful for a few weeks. These movies just put me in the fall spirit.

1-Hocus Pocus: This is without a doubt my absolute favorite Halloween movie and it has been since I was a little girl. It stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy who play three witch sisters who are resurrected in Salem on Halloween night centuries after their death. Every Halloween my mom and I gather all the junk food, light the candles, put on our jammies and watch this movie, it just wouldn’t feel like Halloween without it besides…”It’s just a bunch of Hocus Pocus.”

2-The Spiderwick Chronicles: This movie is full of beautiful sets as well as quirky and interesting characters. The movie stars Freddie Highmore who moves into an old family estate with his mother and two siblings. Upon moving into the house the characters are pulled into a world far different from ours full of fairies and other mythical creatures.

3-The Princess Bride: A classic movie! How could anyone see this movie and not like it? “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”

4-Penelope: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O’Hara and Reese Witherspoon all star in this movie about a young aristocratic heiress who is born under a curse put upon her family. It is such a cute and fun movie. I love everything about this movie; the story is good, the wardrobes are amazing, the sets are beautiful, the acting is good and it is really well written.

5-Tin Man: This is a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz with a bit of a sci-fi twist. It stars Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming and Neal McDonough. I have to admit some of the special effects are a little cheesy but overall I really like it.

6-Practical Magic: This is probably the one instance I can say I liked the movie better than the book. Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest star as the Owen women who all possess a hereditary gift for magic and struggle to find true love under a centuries old family curse.

7-Stardust: Charlie Cox plays a young man who finds himself on an adventure of a lifetime when he steps into a magical realm in search of a fallen star; but he is not the only one hunting for the star. With a star-studded cast including Sienna Miller, Henry Cavill, Peter O’Toole, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, Mark Williams and Ricky Gervais this movie is packed full of oddball characters and loaded with adventure.

8-Ghostbusters: Does this movie even need an explanation? If you haven’t seen it…shame on you. No excuses.

9-Zombieland: This movie is also a cult classic and I have included it because it is one of my favorite movies. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin make up the cast of this hilarious and bloody zombie infested movie.

10-Coraline: Coraline is a little girl who finds a world strangely similar to her own that at first glance appears to be more magical and welcoming; however things take a sinister turn when she questions the idealized version of her current life.

11-The Wizard of Oz: We all know the classic tale of Dorothy Gale being swept away by a tornado to the magical Land of Oz. I love snuggling under a blanket on a cloudy fall afternoon watching this movie.

12-Beetlejuice: Another classic and directed by my favorite Tim Burton. It’s all very Halloween appropriate.

13-The Corpse Bride: Tim Burton again…doing what he does best. A groom-to-be makes the mistake of practicing his wedding vows in the presence of a deceased bride who rises from the grave when she mistakenly thinks he has married her.

14-Sleepy Hollow: Ichabod Crane is played by Johnny Depp, he travels to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the mysterious decapitations of the townspeople and the main suspect is the Headless Horseman. Did I mention Tim Burton directed this movie too?

15-The Nightmare Before Christmas: You can never go wrong with Tim Burton…

16-Ratatouille: This is just a cute movie. It’s a great movie for those lazy Sunday afternoons.

17-Runaway Bride: A reporter takes on the task of writing a story about a woman who leaves men at the altar. How can you go wrong with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere being directed by Garry Marshall?

18-Harry Potter movies: Magic, Wizards, Witches, intrigue, adventure, flying brooms, magic wands, floating pumpkins, castles, unicorns, giants, dragons, bubbling cauldrons, potions…what else do you need?

19-Homeward Bound: Yes I cry every single time I watch this movie. Three pets trying to find their way home to their owners through the wilderness of California, it gets me every time.

20-You’ve Got Mail: Tom Hanks + Meg Ryan + Nora Ephron= The perfect romantic comedy; enough said.

21-Julie & Julia: Julie Powell challenges herself to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child’s first cook book. Based on a book and a true story this movie is so fun. It makes me want to get up and cook. And yes it’s another Nora Ephron movie.

22-Bewitched: A lot of people hate this movie but I think it’s kind of fun. Will Ferrell plays an actor who is cast as Darrin in the upcoming remake of “Bewitched” but he’s overshadowed by Nicole Kidman’s character who is cast as Samantha but she happens to be a real witch. Yet another Nora Ephron movie.

23-Hanging Up: Three sisters played by Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow must deal with the shenanigans of their ailing father. I laugh and I cry every single time I watch this movie.

24-The Brothers Grimm: Will and Jake Grimm are con artists who are thrown off when they encounter a town that is distressed by the disappearances of their daughters. Spooky, funny, and magical.

25-The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: I suppose this movie is a bit obscure now considering it was made in 1949 but I have been watching it every Halloween since I was a kid. This animated classic is narrated by Bing Crosby; it’s funny, a little scary and it has endured the test of time.

So Incredibly Real

The weather is very turbulent today in Northern Minnesota and I have to admit it matches my spirit. I try to make my blog a place of comfort and positivity but today I am very low on cheer. This month has been very rough to say the least. My grandmother was diagnosed with a terminal illness on a Monday and she died that Saturday in my home.

Now, I am so sad I can barely breathe. I haven’t cried much about it and I think that’s because in a lot of ways I’m very similar to her. She was not the type to shower any one with affection and in the thirty years I spent with her I never saw her cry; not once. There are times when I forget that she’s gone and I feel almost normal but then something will trigger my memory and I’m reminded of her final days and how hard it was for her.

The last few months of her life she wouldn’t eat or drink unless she was forced. She wouldn’t take her medication if she was left to do it on her own. None of us could get her out of the house anymore and she could barely walk to the toilet let alone do anything for herself. Since she had had several doctors appointments and they found nothing wrong with her I became angry and frustrated with her. I was mad at her for giving up when there was nothing wrong with her physically; I was blaming it on depression. She would say things like “I’m 89; I’m too old for physical therapy.” “Just take me to the river and drown me.” “Why won’t they just leave me in peace to die?” “I have an infection that’s eating me from the inside out.”

She had been right. After my mother, my brother and I found her in her bathroom covered in diarrhea I cleaned her up the best she would allow. She had a huge bruise and cut on her eye suggesting she had fallen at some point but when I asked what had happened she had no recollection of ever falling. She had no idea what time it was, what day it was, or the year and she couldn’t even tell me my name. My mother and I tried to help her to the couch and she collapsed in our arms. At that point I called the paramedics and she was hospitalized.

She was extremely dehydrated and malnourished. She had a severe bladder infection and her kidneys were almost non-functioning. Her blood pressure was shockingly low and she was complaining of pain in her hip. After several days in the hospital she was eating and drinking regularly, the antibiotics had kicked in and she was carrying on conversations but her pain never subsided. Her doctor then ordered a CT scan to see what was causing the pain in her hip. He was expecting to find arthritis or bone spurs but what he found was shocking.

Adversity seems to find us when we are least prepared for it. Hospitalizing my grandma was scary and before I knew better while I was sitting at her bedside in the hospital she told me how tired she was and that she was ready to die. I said “but grandma it’s not time, I would miss you too much” and she looked up at me and said “I know you will.” That memory haunts me. She was so brave and giving me comfort when I was the one who should have been comforting her. I partially blame myself, because I did not advocate for her pain when it was my responsibility to do so.

When the doctor came back in the room I thought he would find something that could be treated or managed with medication but instead he told us that he found a tumor in her chest cavity that had wrapped itself around her spine, her nerves, her aorta, one of her kidneys was in atrophy and the other functioning kidney had been displaced by the tumor. The tumor itself was malignant and had already started to rot within itself; essentially eating her from the inside out. I looked over at her, so small and frail in her hospital bed and she was looking back at me with a smug smile on her face; she had known all along and I had been wrong.

When my two aunts and my mother left the room to make phone calls and inform others I was left alone with grandma I moved my chair closer to her and she asked me “as my health care agent what are you going to do with me.” And I asked her “what would you like to do?”

“I’m done.” She said. She was diagnosed with cancer on a Monday and we made the decision to forego treatment. She was moved to the nursing home Tuesday morning. As I wheeled her into her room I was appalled at the conditions of that place. She said “This place is disgusting.” And I started laughing “it’s not funny!” she said and I said “Grandma, if I don’t laugh I will cry.” Her eyes started to tear up and she said “I don’t have any tears left to cry!”

Throughout the day various people came in to poke at her, they pulled her from her bed and tried to force her to do physical therapy. When I asked why, they said her insurance would only pay for her room and board if she were making strides to improve her condition. “She isn’t going to get any better, she is dying of cancer!” I was absolutely outraged.

At that point I made the decision to contact Hospice and have her moved to my home where I would take care of her myself. No more poking or prodding, no more tests, no more physical therapy. Just rest. After making numerous phone calls all day Wednesday I went to the nursing home after work to tell her the good news but she had already fallen asleep.

When I arrived Thursday morning she greeted me with a smile. I told her that I had arranged for her to be discharged from the nursing home on Friday morning and that she would spend her final days at home with the family. “I suppose I don’t have a choice.” She said. “You have two choices, you can stay here or you can come with me.” I informed her. “I want to go with you.” she said as she smiled. The remainder of the day my aunt and I sat with her and she was in good spirits and at dinner time she even ate most of her meal.

When my mother and I arrived at the nursing home on Friday morning to pick her up her condition had worsened so drastically. She was in so much pain and she was barely responsive. I told her she needed to hang on until I got her home. She said nothing during the car ride and by the time we pulled into the driveway her eyes had begun to glass over and I couldn’t find her pulse.

Between my father, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, the Hospice nurse and myself we got her into the house. The Hospice nurse pulled me aside and told me that my grandmother was “actively dying” She gave me all kinds of medication to help manage her pain as well as instructions on how to administer it. We began making phone calls to the out of town relatives informing them that it wouldn’t be long and if they wanted to see her, now was the time to do it.

My grandma laid still for quite a while before she woke up screaming “How did I get here?! My skin is burning, I feel like I’m burning, how did I get here?!” She did not know who any of us were and she did not even know herself. Needless to say that freaked us out just a tad so I gave her the first dose of morphine to help with any pain and to hopefully calm her down.

Once she settled down and began to recognize us, my aunt told my grandma that there were people coming to visit her. She fell asleep for a short while but by 6:00pm people began arriving at the house to see grandma and say their goodbyes. She rallied and talked with each one of them. When the last group arrived to sit and talk with her for a while I gave her another dose of morphine. “Here comes my nurse” she’d say with a smile every time I came in the room. “That tastes terrible.” She’d say after every dose I gave her, I’d then give her a sponge-full of water and she’d say “tastes good” and those were her last words to me.

She fell asleep shortly after. The rest of the family followed suit. One by one they all wandered off to bed and the house was full of slumber. My two cousins agreed to stay awake with me to help watch grandma but eventually they both fell asleep and as I listened to the three of them breathing in sweet un-interrupted unison I slowly started to drift off too. But then something changed.

At about 3:30am Grandma’s breathing altered. It became more labored and I was unable to wake her. I woke up my mother and we made the decision to call back the few people who had left. The early morning turned into a series of “false alarms” each time her breathing would change again. The room would fill up with people and when nothing significant would happen others would slowly drift out.

I was exhausted I had been awake all night and I was sitting next to her bed resting my head on one arm with my other hand on her chest. I was falling asleep again when her heart began to beat very rapidly, it then slowed and stopped. I lifted my head to look up at her and watched as life slipped away. She died at 10:45am on Saturday, September 26, 2015 and for the first time during all of it I began to cry. I felt a wave of relief that her suffering had ended and then a wave of guilt for feeling relieved and then pure grief because my grandmother had died.

Others had come back in the room when they heard her stop breathing; they were sobbing and shouting through their grief. I could not take it; I got up from her bedside and tried desperately to stumble out of the room, only to be stopped by the comforting arms of my mother. I sobbed into her shoulder and her grip tightened around me.

The rest of the day was a total and complete blur. I bounced from one set of arms to the next never fully knowing who I was hugging. After helping with funeral arrangements I slept. When I woke up I went about my life as usual. I met a friend for drinks that Sunday to celebrate his birthday and I avoided talking about my grandmother completely.

I’m not the type of person to cry easily and I somehow managed to keep dry eyes throughout my grandmother’s entire funeral. But I’m not made of stone and that evening at my parent’s house we watched the video made by the funeral home. A picture of my grandmother holding me as an infant appeared and I could no longer hold it in.

I had spent every Thursday with my grandma while she was alive and now that she is gone I feel somewhat lost and my heart is broken. The storm must rage on for a while and I know it will get easier as time passes but for right now the pain is so incredibly real.

Gone From My Sight

May 9, 1926-September 26, 2015
Born May 9, 1926 Died September 26, 2015

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone.”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me — not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

And that is dying…

By Henry Van Dyke