576 – Gorch • 03


Okay, I am pulling a blog card today. My grandmother died yesterday morning of Alzheimer’s complications… and I feel a little out of step with the rest of the world who didn’t just lose their grandmothers yesterday morning.

She died as she lived, bitching and laughing, until she passed out at last, and the fluid that kept creeping into her lungs made it too difficult to breathe, and she stopped. My grandfather (who died a few years earlier) used to say that if grandmother wasn’t bitching about something, she just wasn’t happy.

As Alzheimer’s deaths go, it was pretty stellar. She had been deteriorating rapidly for the past year or so, but there was enough cognizance left so that she mostly knew who she was, and if you approached her happily and as if you were old friends she just assumed you were. She was bed bound and generally not conscious for more than a few minutes at a time, but she was also still feisty enough to let everyone around her know what she was thinking… even if it had little to do with the reality the rest of us were in.

She would sit and dream, occasionally speaking to the people she was with, asking questions, laughing, eating, drinking. We tried to keep up with the dreams as best we could so that we could answer appropriately whenever we were asked a question about something that was happening seventy or so years ago. It was kind of fun, and a forgiving sort of game. Pretty much anything you said with a smile would be accepted. The dreams seemed like nice places to be.

I am sad to lose my grandmother, and sad as well to lose the closest tie I had remaining to my grandfather. But I am grateful beyond words to have seen her spared the slow, wasting decline that many Alzheimer’s sufferers have inflicted on them by well-meaning children who want to do anything they can to hang on to people in misery. That, thankfully, was not for her.

I loved my grandmother, and even though it’s not the same, I love you guys too. Our association is by the loosest of ties, but we talk, we communicate, and we touch each other’s lives, and I value it.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, and go give your grandmother a hug.

40 Responses to 576 – Gorch • 03

  1. I can relate to that. I was pretty young at that moment (about 12, methinks), but I know how hard can it be to lose a strong-willed parent slowly to Alzheimer’s.

    Mostly the same happened with my paternal grandmother, who was always such a strong-willed woman, independent and sweet. At times, her Alzheimer’s caused her to think bad stuff about my mother, which was worse considering my mother was studying at night while at that (and she took me to her classes, so I knew she wasn’t doing anything else). As usual with the patients, it’s not the Alzheimer’s that kill them but other conditions, and while they’re sick their minds devolve even faster. One of the last times I was with her, at the hospital, she couldn’t recognize any of us, in particular me (considering that my dad passed before she did, about 9-10 years before her death, you can figure she might have had trouble forgetting me…)

    So, 100% agree with you: while it’s sad to merely reminisce instead of share personally with them, it’s grateful that she was spared losing her independence and her strong attitude and keep her bed-ridden for who knows how long. I might say this is true regardless of creed (whether you believe God was merciful with the family or whether you believe it was something it had to happen and there was no intermediary other than a natural process; using royal you just in case) I can say it was fortunate that her only days bed-ridden were in the hospital, and even then for less than a month.

    Actually, Kev, your grandmother apparently “had it easy”. Don’t get me wrong on that; I dunno how bad it was, but comparing her cause of death to lymphatic cancer on very advanced stage and chemotherapy kinda toughens your perspective. Hopefully she didn’t suffered.

    • No, you’re right. She had a bad year, but overall, considering how fast the end came and the fact that she still had some personality left, it was certainly not the worst way to go.

      For the past two years she’s had trouble remembering who anyone was. Whenever a man would come over to visit my little brother BJ seemed to get the credit. I never minded that though. As long as she knew I was someone who loved her, that was good enough.

  2. My deepest sympathies for your loss, losing a family member around the holidys (yes even if it’s only around halloween) is tough.

  3. I understand how you feel. I had a great aunt who, due to strokes, had an Alzheimer-like effect on her. She had many strokes over a five year period and slowly lost who she was.
    Sometimes too quick isn’t always nice though either. I had a phone conversation with my grandmother only hours before she died from a “Massive Coronary Event” (this wasn’t just a heart attack, but a total collapse of circulatory system). We had planned an outing together since my birthday was only a few weeks away. Man, that happened almost 7 years ago and still messes me up.
    Sorry for your loss and I hope you and yours a good remembrance of the best parts of her life.

    • Thanks Tanap, and yes, I have tons of wonderful memories of both of my grandparents.

      I do feel bad for my cousin. He had planned a trip with his family to see Grandmother this weekend. I’m not even sure he got out of bed yesterday. I at least got to visit with her the night before she died.

  4. When my grandmother died it was very sudden. She was in generally good health for someone as advanced in age as she. She fell and hit her head, and died in the hospital a few hours later.

    The day the family got together to make the drive home for the funeral I received a birthday card in the mail from her. It was very surreal.

      • It was only a few years ago (few meaning less than 10). It didn’t creep me out. And there were other things that happened shortly after her death that some would likely find creepy, but I don’t dwell on them.

        And since her birthday cards were hardly ever prompt, it wasn’t like it ruined my birthday that year.

        Anyway – we’re here for you, man.

    • I appreciate that Matt. At the moment I’m feeling more reflective than depressed… but that kind of switches back and forth. I think I feel worse for my cousin than I do anyone else right now. I’ll have to call him in a few hours.

  5. I feel for ya man. I lost mine via the slow wasting route- took almost 6 years. By the end we felt relief for her that she didn’t have to suffer as a mindless shell anymore. I’m glad you were spared that. It’s never easy, but it could have been a lot worse. At least your good memories of her are still fresh, and she was spared the long wait. My condolences to you & the family.

  6. Mercy on you Kevin.
    I hope the memories you share of your grandmother continue to portray her as the person for who she was. I hope her funeral was a happy one as she will not suffer as others do with this disease and she is in a better place. You should celebrate her impact on your life and all of experiences you have shared.

    • Funeral is Monday, though I promise not to bog down the proceedings again with that!

      Merci buckets for the well wishes, and yes, we will do just that. My brother and sister are coming over tonight and we’re going to spend the evening together reminiscing.

  7. My condolences hun,

    And I can relate, my grandmother in the beginning of the month had a second stroke, and is now diagnosed with Dementia so they have her in a facility, as she is too high risk (Danger to herself) to be in a nursing home apparently. I wish you the very best, and my heart goes out to you.

    • Sorry to hear that. I had a great grandmother who was put in a facility after a series of strokes, and it was NOT a positive experience. While the knowledge came at a cost, it did teach everyone that 24-hour home healthcare was (for us) the better option. Every week we brought her new personal items and a little black and white TV, because the nurses who worked there stole everything she had. (Sorry again. Not trying to bum you out.)

      Anyway, thank you for your kindness. I anticipate coming back to this page many times over the next few months, whenever I am feeling blue.

  8. Oh Kevin, my sincerest condolences. ::hugs:: I know that although I don’t see her or spend time with her as often as I should, I will be devastated when my grandmother is finally gone. Know my thoughts are with you and we’re here if you need us.

    • I know Tonya, I really do. You guys are good friends and I am VERY lucky to have you.

      It’s funny, because I hear so many people say that when you lose someone, you walk around listening to people tell you how sorry they are for you and it seems meaningless. I am finding that the opposite is true. It has tremendous meaning to me, and is of supreme comfort.

      So thanks. It helps.

  9. My grandmother passed away earlier this month. She would have been 101 in January. She lived on her own until she was 87, when she moved into an assisted living home near my mother. Not because she needed assistance, but wanted everything to be in place when the time came. Was about two years ago when her health started to decline.

    At her 100th birthday party, she had her children, grandchildren, and two great grandchildren in attendance, along with over 200 visitors. While she had difficulity recognizing people, once she knew who someone was, she was able to talk personal details about every one, even those she hadn’t seen in almost 20 years. Towards the end of the party, Grandma said she was 100 years old. She’d seen and done everything she wanted to do, and was ready to go Home. It took most of a year, her health continueing to decline, and even with all that warning, it was still hard to loose her.

    At the memorial service, the Pastor sang ‘InThe Garden’, Grandma’s favorate Hymnal, a song that most of us think has been around forever. Grandma was 3 when it was written.

    • I’m sorry to hear about it, but it doesn’t sound like she could have asked for a much better life. It might have been hard when she went, but I think that’s harder if you don’t have the warning.

      Thank you VERY much for sharing your story.

  10. I think we all feel for you because a lot of us have experienced it too so we know what you’re going through. That and the very idea of losing a loved one is abhorrent to me. My grandpa died a few years back, round ’94 I think. He was 89 and pretty well in full control of his mind up until the last day or so. He told my mom once that mentally he still felt like he did at 19, but his body just refused to keep up. It was very frustrating for him. She was with him in his last hours and said he kept talking to old friends of his that had been dead for a while. My mom being the religious type that had significance to her. And who am I to say that even if I don’t believe in god there aren’t ghosts or some other afterlife waiting around? I don’t know. It kinda sucked when he died cause my sister and I had a flight scheduled to go visit the next day. On the other hand I’m glad cause I really didn’t want to see him like that. I prefer my memories of him smiling and fishing and joking with my uncles to thinking of him laying in bed wasting away. I did have a dream that I was sitting and talking to him the day after he died though. Maybe just my mind making shit up, maybe him saying goodbye, I don’t know. But I enjoyed that last time together. Anyway, my story is shared, and I’m really sorry for your loss Kevin. I’m very attached to my family and it makes me get all teary eyed thinking about you losing a member of yours. Enjoy the reminiscing with your siblings. That was the one good thing that came from Grandpa’s passing. The whole family got together and told stories of their time with him for a week straight. I imagine you guys’ll do the same.

    • I certainly believe there’s plenty more to this universe than we’re aware of Tim. Who’s to say you didn’t talk to you granddad, or at least some representation of him?

      I think that if you can remember someone in a certain light, then they exist for you in a very real way. Before my own granddad died I didn’t understand what this meant, but now I do, and I am able to draw tremendous comfort from it.

      Thanks for telling us about your Grandpa, Tim. Thanks a lot.

  11. It’s a gloomy sort of comfort I have to offer but I hope it helps: The inexorable march of death will trample over all of us which means that this isn’t a great tragedy so much as the world being whole and at peace. Life isn’t permanent and the future is in many ways an illusion: The world you and your family live in carry on and continue to reflect her presence.
    It’s trite but there’s something to be said for celebrating her life instead of mourning her death.

    • Yep, the only certainty about life is that none of us are getting out of it alive. Still, it is good to keep the perspective, and understand that far from being made more lonely, this sort of experience actually ties us together with the rest of humanity, all of which are in the same boat.

      Thanks AC.

  12. I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  13. I’ll pray for you Kevin. just keep safe, and don’t beat yourself up.
    The best thing to do in to call your cousin and give him/her a hug, that’s about all that can be done.
    Grief is something everyone deals with in different ways.

    • I just saw him at the viewing. It’s weird, but I haven’t cried about any of this yet… I’ve just felt sort of disassociated… until I hugged him. I suddenly couldn’t let him go and the tears were starting to well up… and I kind of pushed back and just stood at arms length until I got back under control. (Which he totally got. We grew up together and have always been more like brothers than cousins. He knows me.)

      The funeral is tomorrow. I imagine sometime after that everything will catch up with me. Once I’m no longer concentrating on the next thing.

  14. My condolences. I’ve had two grandparents (my dad’s mom and my wife’s mom’s mom) pass from Alzheimer’s disease, both within the past few years. I’m glad your grandmother’s was not prolonged because it is had to see them suffer (my grandmother was bed-ridden for over a year, my wife’s grandmother for a couple of months). One thing that I will say with Alzheimer’s is that it makes their passing easier than a sudden death because you have time _with_ them to begin the coping stage. Your earlier comments about being reflective even hint that for you as well. I wish your family well as they deal with this loss.

    • It was easier for for those of us who were close and saw the decline to deal with her actual death than those who were far away and didn’t get to see her all the time. Of course we were dealing with that decline, so I suppose it’s probably a wash.

      I am extremely sorry to hear about your two grandparents. One at a time is hard enough, two close together would be a big impact. (And it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s your grandmother or your spouse’s. I think Lena is just as torn up as I am.) You will be in my thoughts as well.

  15. I’m new to posting here, but hearing this news…. I had to.
    I am sorry for your loss, but it does seem she went feisty and doing what she loved. You do still have a link to your grandfather though, your heart. I lost mine last month and I know the rush of feelings after the numb times.
    I’ll be praying for you (Or keeping you in positive thoughts… (whatever you are more comfortable with))

    • The one thing I didn’t really expect was the number of people who had also lost grandparents here… and recently as well. I am so incredibly grateful to all of you who have shared your stories and your grief here with me to show me that I am not alone. It is meaningful beyond words and I thank each of you with all my heart.

      Go ahead and pray, JP. It is a gift to be thought of, and I wouldn’t want to sully that by getting hung up on the particulars.

    • Oh wow did THAT make a huge difference. There wouldn’t have been much we could have done about it if they weren’t… you couldn’t wake her up for more than a few seconds at a time. It would have been terrible for all of us.

      Thanks for writing, Carl.