Shay N, Louisiana, USA
This is a very long story but you have to know the whole thing in order to appreciate my experience. Thanks for reading.
During the years from 1991 to about 1995, my Grandma suffered terribly from Cancer. My Mom, her sisters and myself would take turns staying with "Momo". She was very ill and was afraid to stay alone. I didn't have to stay with her, being one of 16 grandkids, but I loved her deeply and didn't want to have any regrets after she was gone. "Momo" always favored me over the other grandkids I suppose because I paid so much attention to her. I would go to church with her every Sunday and she would always ask me to sing her favorite gospel song, "Consider the Lilies". I'm sure everyone else at church tired of hearing the song but Momo and I didn't really care, she loved it and I loved singing it for her. She even went so far as to ask me to sing it at her funeral when the time came. I told her I would try but that I sincerely doubted I would be able to sing what we she and I being so close.
During the last year of Momo's life she declined rapidly. She became afraid to sleep, fearing she wouldn't wake up. Several times the family was called in with news that she wasn't going to last through the night. We would wisk her off to the hospital in the nearest largest town where her doctors were and stay until she recovered enough to return home. Sometimes I would stay with her in the hospital, trying to make sure she was comfortable and generally just keep her company. We would talk for hours on end. In September of this same year, my husband who was about 26 years old was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. For those of you who don't know, Hodgkin's is a form of Cancer in the lymph system and sometimes it's fatal if not caught early enough.Things moved pretty fast, hubby started chemotherapy in October and Momo has also taken another turn for the worst. Since I was so busy with my husband, I was unable to stay with Momo like before. The family decided not to tell her about hubby being sick because it would have upset her terribly and she was already in terrible condition. From right after Thanksgiving to 2 days before Christmas, Keith started Radiation therapy. The hospital and his doctors were oddly enough the same as my Momo used. The hospital was 1 ? hours away and the drive everyday became so tiring for us. Keith, myself and our 4 year old daughter would load up and head to the hospital everyday, he would drive up there and I would drive back because he was usually to ill after the treatment to drive. December 23rd was his next to the last Radiation treatment; he was to finish up a couple of days after Christmas. That was also the day Momo was admitted to the hospital again. On the 24th, I called her hospital room, I should have driven up there to see her but I was totally exhausted having already made that same drive for the past month straight. I called, she answered and her speech was slurred, I told her we were fine, and all the stuff you say to a sick loved one. I didn't say anything about Keith, I just told her I would be up there in a couple of days to check on her.well at some point Momo had either just dropped the phone or hung up. Like I said she was very ill I'll never know if she heard me tell her "Merry Christmas" or that I loved her because the next day, Christmas Day, she passed away.
My Mom and Dad were there when she died. I had always promised myself that I would be there for her when the time came, but she always got better and came home so I figured this was one of those times but I was wrong. I suppose she did get better and go home but not in the sense that I was hoping for. I felt so awful; I had let her down. She throughout my entire life was there for me. She was in the delivery room when my daughter was born, holding my hand. None of the other family could be there because I had a C-section and Momo had worked in a hospital for years and she knew one of the attendants so they let her come in. Afterwards, she rolled my sweet little girl down the hall so Keith and everyone else could see our little miracle. I have heart disease so to say that my pregnancy was hard would be an understatement. Momo was always there, everytime I was hospitalized, she would come give me a kiss and tell me she loved me and things were going to be fine. She wasn't physically able to do all this for me but she did and after Carrie was born Momo bought the prettiest little lavender dress, she knew I loved purple and the dress was just beautiful! To get back to the story, I had failed Momo when she needed me most. At the wake I didn't go into the sanctuary to see her, I just couldn't do it. All of our family knew I was taking her death hard coupled with the fact that Keith was ill too, they were all hovering like Mother hens waiting for me to lose "it". One cousin said, "Shay, she looks so pretty, you should really go have a look", to which I replied, "she's dead, nobody dead looks pretty." That night people were needed to set up at the church, Keith said that he and I would take the 3 to 6 a.m. shift. Arriving at the church early that morning, I stayed in the foyer, still having not seen Momo, I decided I was going to go see but I wanted to be alone with her. Keith left me then to go make coffee and I slowly made my way closer to the casket. That was the longest walk of my entire life! Upon reaching my destination, and having a peek. She did look so pretty and so at peace. She looked like she was just sleeping. I began talking nonsense I'm sure to her, telling her how much she meant to me, how much she had influenced and enriched my life. Especially how much I was going to miss her and how sorry I was that I hadn't been there when she needed me. As tears began to roll down my cheeks I did something that I'm sure will seem completely crazy but at the time, it seemed the "only" thing and the last thing I could do for Momo. Remember I told you she asked me years before to sing "Consider the Lilies" at her funeral and I told her I would do my best. So here I go, standing over Momo's casket, just she and I, I began to sing softly at first then as my courage grew, I sang with more feeling, pouring my heart out in the simple words of that song. I sang the entire song just as I had done for years. I'm sure it didn't sound very good what with all the sniffling and crying I was doing but I'm totally convinced that she was listening.
I felt better afterwards, still standing there alone in that big church seeing one of my worst fears right before me, knowing that my precious Momo was lost to me forever and that I could never put my arms around her or tell her that I loved her ever again. In my heart I know she knew how deeply I loved her and how much she meant to me but that was little consolation right at that moment. At that moment I felt such an overwhelming sense of loss and failure that words can not express. I made it through the funeral, the graveside service, and all the ceremony that accompanies death. I remember trying to find lilies to put on her grave but it being December, well it just wasn't possible so I had to settle on something else. I made it through what was our effort at Christmas that year, how joyous can a family be that has lost someone so dear on such an important day? Needless to say our Christmas's now are always tinged with the memories of that awful Christmas when Momo died. I didn't know this until later but Momo knew that Keith was sick, only she thought he had been diagnosed with Aids. If I had known I would have told her the truth but she died thinking that I was going to have to loose Keith as well and that I would have to raise Carrie alone.
In January, Keith started his last round of Chemo. It was hard going to the hospital then because Momo had died there. The very last treatment put Keith in the hospital, a couple of floors below where Momo died. I knew which room; I finally gathered the strength to find the room, knowing she wasn't going to be there but just needing to go to that room. I found a nurse and explained to her my situation, hoping she didn't think I was a nut case. I told her I would just like to go in for a minute or so if the room was empty. The nurse seemed to understand my need and luckily for me nobody was in the room. Hesitantly I pushed open the door and looked in. I went to the window, which in my mind as I looked out, was the last thing Momo would have seen with her Earthly eyes. I just stood there looking at the city skyline with tears running down my cheeks. For some inane reason I looked in the little dresser, the closet, the bathroom, knowing I would find nothing but just needing to look. Lastly, I looked out the window once more, this time I sat on the bed. The view was much different from there, you couldn't see the tops of the buildings or anything, just clouds and blue sky. So you might say that the last thing Momo saw with her "living" eyes was her future home, the sky, Heaven.
I left the room and thanked the nurse. I returned to Keith's room to tell him goodbye, I had to get back home to pick up our daughter. After reaching my car I looked up and saw Keith standing at his hospital room window waving "goodbye' to me. I thought it was Keith, I remember feeling nostalgic and kind of sad, I hated leaving him but I couldn't stay. I stood there in the cold, waving and feeling weird. When Carrie and I got home that evening, I called Keith and told him I saw him wave goodbye to me and told him how strange that had made me feel. He was quiet then he said, "Shay, it wasn't me, I didn't stand at the window and wave at anyone." "Then who could it have been?" He didn't have a answer but I did, thinking back the person waving at me was actually a couple of floors above where Keith's window would have been and it was facing a different side of the hospital parking lot, the side my Momo's room was on. Was she standing there in spirit waving to me, letting me know that she knew that I had finally made it to check on her and that she was fine? In my heart I know it was her and she is now in a much better place, one where there's no pain and suffering.