Friday, March 11, 2016

Lessons in Dying

Melinda Palacio

An old photo of my grandmother with her dog Oso

Last week, my grandmother's longtime doctor released her from the hospital. He said there was nothing more he could do for her. She's had congestive heart failure, two strokes, open heart surgery, and blood clot surgery on her leg. Since December, he's been preparing our family for the inevitable, our matriarch's death. She is now at home. I've spent the past two weeks, changing her diapers, feeding her through a tube, and attending to her pain medicines, laundry, and hygiene.
         Although the doctor only gave her days, it looks as though she may have months. Her suffering is prolonged due to the same doctor who inserted a feeding tube in her belly. 
My grandmother meets her great granddaughter, Audrey Rose.

         When she is not at ease, she screams out in agony and calls out for her ancestors, and all the dogs she has ever kept (she loves animals). She is done with living and wants the feeding tube removed. The doctor is currently on vacation until next week. This is a lesson in heartbreak, a lesson in dying.

         When I go, I want to make sure no one ever puts a peg tube in me or keeps me alive beyond life's natural course. She has said that she has died three times over the duration of her life and has been called back each time. Her daily expressions about truly wanting to finally die are frustrating and selfish (I don't want this to happen on my watch). Although she has asked me numerous times to help end her life with a gun or a knife, this is not an option for me. She will have to take her last breath on her own. I do, however, wish her the quickest peace. But she is fierce and strong, and getting stronger under our loving care. She just might make it to her 87th birthday next month.

*in case you missed the previous installation of this series:


Anonymous said...

I hear your words but can't fathom the depth and burden of your feelings and heart. About your own ending, they mirror mine, at least at the moment. What do we know, anyway? Other than, pain can be incommunicable and intolerable. But life was good. – R

msedano said...

May her transition be as peaceful as her body will allow. Being there the instant life ceases will be a a privilege, a final act of sharing. Peace be with you, Melinda.

Viva Liz Vega! said...

You are fortunate to have each other, she to have your support as she embarks on this Journey and you to witness this and have a glimpse into what is like. If you are able to do hospice, I would highly recommend it, they will do an incredible job supporting your grandmother and your family.

Anonymous said...

From someone who was once at the brink of death and whose family was told to get ready for the worse, that they'd done all they could and could do nothing more, I can only imagine your own hopelessness and desperation. Somehow we seem to find the will and strength to forge on. Melinda, you have the greatest heart in the world to be able to watch over your grandmother like you have been doing. God bless you both.
Martina Robles Gallegos

Karen Cordova said...

As you know, you are honoring your grandmother by all the time you are spending with her. I respect you, immensely, for not turning away from the difficulty, but still taking some time to refresh yourself in between. - Karen

Unknown said...

Dear Melinda. I can understand you saying you don't want your grandmother's passing to happen on your watch. You might feel you didn't do enough to take care of her when the responsibility was yours. But that won't be the case. I think if you are there with her at that time, you will recognize it for what it is: a true gift. I was with both my parents when they died (in the same year) despite my home being 2,000 miles from theirs. I felt privileged. It's a memory that I will carry with me always. Sending prayers for you and your family. And a hug.

Blessing and strength to all of you.

Olga Garcia Echeverria said...

Melinda, thank you for sharing a little bit of your journey with us. It is the hardest thing to witness a loved one in pain. We suffer with them. Sending you and your familia love and strength and muchas bendiciones a tu Abuelita as she navigates through her transition from this world into the next.

Amelia ML Montes said...

Querida Melinda-- Thank you for sharing this journey with us. I send you strength and much love.
We also transition with them and, as Olga, wrote, we suffer with them too. I cannot guess all
the feelings you are experiencing. All I can tell you is that I am thinking of you, sending you y toda tu
familia mi amor y compasión. Abrazos!