Love lost, read and found
We all have something in common with everyone else in our lives. At some point in life we will all have to deal with loss and in particular the death of a loved one. Losing members of the family are all part of the journey each of our lives will take us on and when we come to these sad crossroads of fate, all we can hope for was that the path was well trodden when it came to the end.
Unfortunately for every full life that there is lived, there are also too many short ones and to those in the middle of their own journey this kind of passing is a tragedy we find hard to walk past and leave behind.
My Grandmother Clara you could say had a very full life! This time 24 years ago our road together road came to an end. The 7th of July is the anniversary of her passing. I can remember the day like it was just yesterday but the journey from bedroom to death bed started a few weeks before.
I was still only 19 years of age and less than two months away from my 20th and it was in the second half of June of 1990, when I woke up in my room one morning to the sound of a thump that my awakening consciousness detected had come from one of the other rooms. I jumped out of bed knowing that day that my Grandmother Clara who we always knew just as ‘Nanny’ and who lived with us at home, was really the only other person in the house and so I ran to her room in a furious hurry. Well when I say her room it was more like a room which was now hers.
It is not an easy thing to see an 83 year old sprawled out on the floor after a fall let alone a member of your own flesh and blood, but it is something many people find they are bound to experience at some point in their lives I guess. Still when faced with such a occurrence no matter how sure we think we might be, we find we are still not prepared for it when it happens.
I don’t know what is easier really, hoping our elders have a full life but die young enough so we don’t have to see them fall, suffer and diminish with the indignity from the mighty image and status of the giants they have been in our lives and personification of so many things and memories of them we have always held dear, or to wish they could go on forever but slowly deteriorating into a helpless suffering relic of the person we once knew. It doesn’t matter I guess as one choice is never easier than another for the loved ones that don’t want to see their family go.
Rushing to the room I found her by the side of the bed where she had fallen and come to rest and I think in the process, also banging her head against the wall on the way down. Seeing her quite clearly stressed and with my heart in my mouth, in a panic I tried to console her the best that I could and even tried to help her up whilst asking her what exactly had happened. But she was unable to reply in any way that was decipherable and I immediately suspected the worse a head injury caused by her fall. The next few minutes were all much of a blur but I remember having to phone an ambulance and describe what had happened and what symptoms she was displaying and so on. I don’t know exactly how long it took but within a very short time the ambulance crew were in our home and seeing to her, whilst I was frantically relaying all the happenings down the phone to my father at work. A few minutes later and I was asked to grab a few things from my Gran’s belongings just in case, as she was going to likely have at least a short stay in hospital.
The ambulance ride was surreal. I sat next to my Gran and couldn’t believe I was seeing her there wrapped up like in a cocoon. I was stroking her forehead the whole time muttering comforting nonsense in Spanish the whole way as she was conscious but so very clearly far away. The person that I knew was right there beside me but not in the way that I knew.
On our way to the hospital seeing my Gran in such a poor state, I started to reflect, (well I say reflect but that would imply thinking calmly when my thoughts were frantically scrambled and in full speed) on what might have happened and if there might have been any underlying cause. In truth I had a very guilty feeling that perhaps her misfortune was partly my own doing. She had only been in that room for little more than a few weeks and perhaps that was down to my suggestion in the first place. Up until that time, my gran and I had shared a room and my 11 year old brother had one to himself. I had made the case to my parents for her to be in her own room and for my brother and I to share instead, and my parents agreed to the switch around. But I know now in hindsight and since found experience that it was not really wise to switch an old person from the routine and familiarity they had for over 10 years in the same room. Surely it couldn’t be coincidence that she should fall so suddenly after moving rooms?
I have been burdened by this thought ever since but I never shared it with anyone up until now, fearing they might agree and subsequently lay some of the fault with me. But I also suspect that if I had thought it, then others in my family would have come to the same conclusion themselves. If they did, no one ever mentioned it, and perhaps we were all sharing in some similar guilt.
Upon arriving at the A&E department of St Georges in Tooting she was seen by the doctors and soon taken for an Xray or an MRI, I can’t really remember, but at that moment the nurses removed my Gran’s ring and her necklace and gave it into my care for safe keeping.
Instinctively I put the necklace around my neck thinking that was as safe as I could possibly hope to keep it. It was something she had worn round her neck all the years I had ever known her. It was very much a part of who she was I guess. It was a silver chain and two pendants. One was a St Christopher’s medal and the other one was of the Virgin Mary.
Before I could still get my head around what was happening, they declared she had had a stroke and that this had caused her to fall. I was relieved in a way feeling absolved of my guilt although deep down inside I didn’t really believe it to be that way. What if the fall and the bump, had caused her stroke?
With the assessment completed, we were swiftly taken away once again down the next part of the road that we were sharing, as the ambulance transferred us to another hospital where The Bolingbrook hospital was to be the last place of her stay for the remainder of just weeks.
Just as it is going on now, the World Cup was also in full swing back then when and while we all visited her daily. You never think anyone is truly really going to die even though what you see with your own eyes, somehow you still think that they will pull through and your roads together will wind on some distance still. As it was there were not too many turns left in that journey after all and instead of the expected improvements we hoped we would see with each of our visits, she got more and more confused and it became obvious that she was not going to fully recover from it. As the days passed by she made little sense verbally, but there was many a time when you could sometimes see real recognition in her eyes especially when you walked in to see her upon arriving at her hospital ward and that gave us hope that our paths together still offered journeys more. But as the days added up the time between recognitions became further apart and towards the end when it had been quite some time since she had recognised or responded in any kind of way, well-wishers started making the journey taking the form of making sure they had visited in case such a visit was actually goodbye!
On one of these occasions there was a lot of family and friends all visiting her at the same time and by her bedside. We were all sharing tears as the doctor had given us bleak news and that a journey was nearing the end, when I lent forward to kiss her on her forehead long since having given up that she even knew. As I lent towards her face her necklace swung forward away from my chest and towards her face and suddenly she recognised it and reached out and clasped it in her hands. It was a heart wrenching moment and last flicker of hope that made me cry right there to see her come back momentarily at least, and to her own jewellery and chain that she had worn every minute of the life that I had known and shared with her.
It was to be her last hoorah!
The next day or so things were equally as bleak as the doctor had said and my Gran just lay there breathing but motionless.
It was a Saturday evening and the World Cup was close to an end. England’s fantastic run had come to an end but they were that evening about to play Italy for the 3rd place play off and I was meeting Kath who was driving to my house to watch it with me. Katherine was only recently new to the road having not long passed her driving test and we were both early into the journey our lives would have us share. This was kind of an early crossing point in our lives as we had only recently started going out once again and of course being new, I was still eager to see her but before driving home to my world cup rendezvous with Kath, I drove to the hospital on route and sat with my Gran for a while. I can’t remember if I said anything or if I just held her hand but I know for sure I did not think I was saying goodbye, and with Kath on my mind and the kick off not long due, I kissed my Gran goodbye for the day and drove home to meet my girlfriend still new. Sat with Kath and watching the match and less than 30 minutes since leaving my Gran, the hospital rang and informed us that she had just passed away. Within moments the family were rallying together and we were all rushing to get back to our Gran’s bedside though her journey had now taken a new route on its own and Kath said to me how sorry she was and that she thought best to leave me and my family alone at this time while we did what was needed in reaction to this very sudden news and with that Kath drove back home on her own while I drove back to where I had just come regretting the choice to have left my Gran so soon and not been there to wave her goodbye.
I think when she died that day all I could take from it in a way of symbolism was what had happened the day or two before. I like to think that moment when she came to and clasped her chain of the St Christopher medallion and Virgin Mary while it hang from my neck, was a sort of a blessing. Perhaps she was wishing well on my journey going on alone, perhaps in a way she was saying a prayer to St Christopher to guide me on my way or perhaps it was just a way of fate to remind me always to value the journeys we share.
I give thanks to God for all those he sends me for my journey to share.